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Foundation and Mission

GEI was founded in 2015 and is a worldwide leader in CRISPR-directed gene editing technology. It is the only institute of its kind based in a community health system and it focuses on three central missions.

The Discovery Research Group focuses on identifying the traits and characteristics of CRISPR as a tool for editing the human genome in ways that support improved human health and ethical benefit. With the support of multiple grants and the engagement of doctoral students, the group is the home of such discoveries as CRISPR on a Chip and the protocol for our CRISPR in a Box educational product. This team is currently working on understanding the off-target effects of gene editing within the cell using a sickle cell disease model. Our paper on off-site mutagenesis remains a top-five downloaded scholarly article from The CRISPR Journal and is referenced widely. Understanding the predictability of gene editing is the most pressing limitation of moving this technology forward from bench to bedside.

GEI team members are proud to continually contribute high-impact articles and present at conferences as an active participant in the worldwide community of scientists working to advance the understanding and use of CRISPR gene editing within an ethical and equitable framework. For more information about these publications and events, please visit our website.

The Translational Research Group is a growing team of scientists who have collaborated with ChristianaCare oncologists to identify the need for new life-extending solutions for patients with solid lung tumors. The pursuit of this therapeutic goal has developed into a broader, patent-supported application of gene editing to disable chemotherapy defenses within solid tumors that arise from NRF2 mutation, including pancreatic and other often-lethal tumors. Preclinical work, including animal studies, are being conducted as well as toxicity and biodistribution studies and construction of the viral vector vehicle that will deliver CRISPR packages to solid tumors.

In addition to advancing this work through the FDA Investigational New Drug pathway, the team includes cell engineers who serve as a laboratory resource core for several universities, including Thomas Jefferson University, the Wistar Institute and the INBRE research consortium, which includes the University of Delaware.

St. Georges Technical High School students using CRISPR in a Box

Education and Outreach is the third and newest mission. The concept for the Education Group is rooted in a long-standing National Science Foundation grant that originally sought to promote training of community college teachers to deploy an in-laboratory gene editing experiment. The grant, since renewed, has been expanded to address a pressing need for exposure to gene editing science at a younger age. This need has been identified not only by educators, but also through economic development professionals as a competitive advantage in building a geographically based talent pipeline.

The social context of our times has added a strong element of equity to the pursuit of this work and the imperative to ensure that all students, including students of color, are exposed and even inspired to pursue this science, which we believe will be transformational to new discoveries within the next decade, including a cure for sickle cell disease among many other quality of life improvements. This group is highly engaged in the establishment of partnerships and engagements with stakeholders throughout Delaware and beyond. In addition to collaboration with the ChristianaCare Office of Health Equity, our partners include the Delaware Department of Education, The Franklin Institute, Delaware Technical Community College, University of Delaware, and Delaware State University, DelawareBio, among many others.

We welcome inquiries from those who want to join us in these efforts.

Gene Editing Institute
Siobhan Hawthorne
SHawthorne@ChristianaCare.org