Rice University faculty members led by bioengineer Gang Bao have been awarded a $4 million grant by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) to establish the Genetic Design and Engineering Center (GDEC).
Rice’s first CPRIT Core Facility will provide a one-stop shop for Houston’s Texas Medical Center, of which the university is a member, and other institutions that require custom DNA constructs but have neither the expertise nor the facilities to design and validate them.
Bao said Rice already has the expertise, and the grant will allow the facility to be established at the BioScience Research Collaborative (BRC). He expects space will be configured for the GDEC over the next few months while equipment is ordered and staff are hired.
Bao has recruited high-profile researchers to GDEC’s executive committee, including Rice bioengineers Jeffrey Tabor, Caleb Bashor and Isaac Hilton and bioscientist Caroline Ajo-Franklin, and Cassian Yee, a professor in the Department of Melanoma and Medical Oncology and director of solid tumor therapy at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Tabor and Bashor will serve as associate directors of the GDEC.
Their intention is to dramatically accelerate the pace, scale and impact of cancer research through access to state-of-the-art tools for the design, construction and optimization of the DNA constructs at the heart of developing innovative approaches to treat disease. DNA constructs are artificial segments of genetic code used to modify the properties of living cells and tissues.
“Many cutting-edge technologies like synthetic biology and genome engineering start with designing DNA constructs, and the design, testing and optimization require a core facility,” said Bao, chair of Rice’s Department of Bioengineering and a renowned researcher in biomolecular engineering who will direct the center.
Author: MIKE WILLIAMS