The ability to modify DNA in living cells is revolutionizing the life sciences. For the past fifteen years, members of the Center for Genome Engineering (CGE) have led the charge in developing new, powerful genome modification technologies. Contributions have ranged from construction of the first, functional vertebrate transposon (Sleeping Beauty) – which has proven effective for DNA delivery and mutagenesis – to the invention of Transcription Activator-like Effector Nucleases (TALENs). CGE technology advances functional genomics, provides therapeutic strategies to correct mutations underlying genetic disease, and has resulted in new crop varieties that are already in the field.
Current research areas of focus include:
- the development and improvement of various sequence-specific nuclease platforms (zinc finger nucleases, TALENs and CRISPR/Cas reagents)
- the optimization of vectors for delivery of gene editing reagents to cells
- the deployment of novel gene editing enzymes such as cytosine deaminases
- understanding basic mechanisms of DNA repair
While CGE technology has advanced the research mission of the UMN, CGE technologies are also used by investigators around the world for basic and applied biological research.
Synergy and collaboration
CGE serves as a nucleation point for the common research interests of its participants. The primary meeting place for Center members is the bimonthly research seminar at which students and postdocs present their most recent scientific findings. These meetings provide an educational opportunity for trainees and inspire new collaborations and research projects that capitalize on the members’ diverse expertise. The Center also hosts a monthly inter-institutional webinar with colleagues from the Mayo Clinic, University of Iowa, Medical College of Wisconsin, Temple University, Southern Illinois University and Iowa State University. The webinar has resulted in collaborations between research groups and inter-institutional grants. The Center’s annual meeting, previously held at the University of Minnesota, has transitioned to an international conference sponsored every other year by FASEB. On alternative years, CGE helps organize an international genome engineering meeting in collaboration with the external non-profit Genome Writer's Guild.
CGE promotes the shared research and educational objectives of its faculty by:
- providing administrative support
- maintaining service contracts for key pieces of equipment
- bringing external seminar speakers who work in developing areas of genome engineering to the UofM
- providing financial support to students and postdocs so they can present data at international meetings
Initially called the Center for Transposon Research, CGE was a grass roots organization formed by faculty interested in developing applications of the Sleeping Beauty transposon.
In 2008, Dr. Dan Voytas joined the department of Genetics, Cell Biology and Development and assumed directorship of the Center, changing the name to the Center for Genome Engineering to reflect a broader scope and mission. New faculty were recruited and Center activities and audience expanded.
In 2017, directorship shifted to Dr. David Largaespada. Under Dr. Largaespada's leadership the new Talaria and Hatch award initiatives were created. We look forward to further growth under Dr. Largaespada's leadership.