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For the sake of its future, Connecticut should embrace gene-editing science

On 30, Apr 2018 | No Comments | In Blog, Future of Agriculture | By admin

Curing disease.  Growing healthier, more sustainable crops. Adapting energy and environmental needs while moderating demands on our changing world.

These have long been some of the most complex scientific goals facing researchers—many of whom conduct their experiments here in Connecticut.

Now, an emerging technology – gene editing – is changing the way scientists conduct their research. It will fundamentally change the way science addresses current and future agricultural, medical and scientific challenges.

Gene editing is making possible scientific breakthroughs for treatment of rare diseases to some of the most common cancers.  It’s making crops safer, requiring less pesticide and protecting plants from disease.  It’s giving hope to patients and to food producers around the world, and it’s doing all of this in ways far less invasive and with far less risk than in the past.

Editing of genes is a practice with a long history. Almost since farming began, farmers have sought to elevate traits that promote greater crop yields and make their fruits and vegetables safe from disease and pests.

Breeding techniques developed over the decades brought us healthier, more nutritious and sustainable foods.

But what farmers and scientists started generations ago has now emerged into a precise science.

Gene editing allows for highly specific, precise changes to DNA through naturally occurring processes.  Tools such as CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) allow for repair to an organism’s own genes. Gene editing techniques will change the way we assess scientific challenges, making what were nearly insurmountable challenges, fixable problems.

Imagine what this could mean for the future — cures or preventative treatments for diseases like cancer, HIV, auto immune disorders.  The ability to grow produce with less water, fewer pesticides, less environmental impact.

This technology is already happening here in our state.  Some of the most cutting-edge developments in gene editing are happening at institutions like The Jackson Laboratory, Yale, and the University of Connecticut.  The impact the discoveries ongoing in our own backyard is great and we as a state need to embrace and nurture this innovation.

That’s why my organization is working with partners from across the state to bring together leaders in the biotech and research industries to discuss the gene editing work that’s happening, the work that is on the horizon and what we as a community need to do to fuel the growth of Connecticut biotechnology and life sciences.  Our goal is to educate lawmakers, their staff and the public about this exciting work—what it means not only for the future of our health, our food supply, but also for bringing high quality jobs to Connecticut.

We already have a thriving life sciences research and development industry here in Connecticut and there is much untapped potential for its growth.  Our leaders are wise to embrace emerging technologies like gene editing and encourage this research to continue to grow here in Connecticut.

Paul R. Pescatello JD/Ph.D. is Senior Counsel and Executive Director, CBIA’s CT Bioscience Growth Council.

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