Bill Schmitt
Senior Communications Manager
Department of External Affairs
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ChristianaCare’s Gene Editing Institute Opens a Unique Learning Lab for High School and College Students at Its STAR Campus Location

Free program uses CRISPR in a Box™ toolkit to teach the power of gene editing

To inspire the next generation of students to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and learn about the power of genomic science, ChristianaCare’s Gene Editing Institute has launched a new Learning Lab on its premises that offers educational programming about revolutionary CRISPR gene editing technology.

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Located next to the Gene Editing Institute’s lab on the University of Delaware’s STAR Campus, the Learning Lab is a physical space that provides an immersive field trip experience for upper-level high school students and college undergraduates who may not have access at their schools to a laboratory to conduct gene editing experiments.

There is no cost for schools to use the lab or for the materials to conduct the experiment. The Gene Editing Institute wants to ensure that all schools have equal opportunity to participate in educational programming at the lab.

Students using the lab can perform a gene editing experiment in a single day using the Gene Editing Institute’s innovative CRISPR in a Box™ educational toolkit. All materials in the kit are safe, synthetic materials, and allow students to perform CRISPR gene editing with non-infectious E. coli bacteria. They will be able to see an appearance change indicating gene editing has occurred at the end of their experiment.

“Students around the country, no matter where they go to school, have the potential to be scientists, researchers and laboratory technicians,” said Eric Kmiec, Ph.D.,  executive director and chief scientific officer of ChristianaCare’s Gene Editing Institute. “Our hope is that by creating access and space for students to explore, we can inspire the next generation of students to pursue STEM careers. The Learning Lab allows us to help cultivate the next generation of genetic scientists and strengthen Delaware and our region as a leader in biotechnology.”

Education Program Manager Amanda Hewes, MS, developed the Learning Lab after noticing a problem that was undercutting the opportunities of teachers to bring gene editing experiments into the classroom — a lack of space and equipment.

“We don’t want anything to hinder the way students learn about CRISPR gene editing,” Hewes said. “If a student feels like there are too many steps, or a teacher doesn’t have an essential piece of equipment, then we’ve lost an opportunity to bring the next generation of scientists into the lab. We’re striving to break down as many barriers as possible for students.”

Learning real-world applications of gene editing

The Learning Lab also allows students to speak directly with experts in the field about careers in biotechnology and gene editing as they learn the difference between such things as phenotypic and genotypic readouts in their gene editing experiments. This gives students the chance to ask about the real-world application of genome experiments in a research lab. It also lets them think about their place in a lab setting.

“I’ve never been in an actual lab setting before,” said Shiloh Lee, a junior at the Charter School of Wilmington, at a recent class. “I think it is very, very cool to be able to experience it.”

“I’ve learned a lot of new skills with the micropipetting,” said Pauline Zhuang, a senior at The Charter School of Wilmington. “We don’t have the same resources at our school. The CRISPR in a Box is such a great resource. My classmates and I have been able to experience, firsthand, what it is like to actually do gene editing.”

Through the program, the Gene Editing Institute hopes to educate 1,000 students by spring 2024. Currently, the lab is on track to engage more than 200 students by the end of the spring 2023 semester.

CRISPR stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, which are the hallmark of a bacterial defense system that forms the basis for CRISPR-Cas 9 genome editing technology. The CRISPR technology enables researchers to modify genes in living cells and organisms and may make it possible to correct mutations at precise locations in the human genome in order to treat genetic causes of disease.

For more information about the Learning Lab and the educational program, email


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About ChristianaCare

Headquartered in Wilmington, Delaware, ChristianaCare is one of the country’s most dynamic health care organizations, centered on improving health outcomes, making high-quality care more accessible and lowering health care costs. ChristianaCare includes an extensive network of primary care and outpatient services, home health care, urgent care centers, three hospitals (1,430 beds), a freestanding emergency department, a Level I trauma center and a Level III neonatal intensive care unit, a comprehensive stroke center and regional centers of excellence in heart and vascular care, cancer care and women’s health. It also includes the pioneering Gene Editing Institute.

ChristianaCare is nationally recognized as a great place to work, rated by Forbes as the 2nd best health system for diversity and inclusion, and the 29th best health system to work for in the United States, and by IDG Computerworld as one of the nation’s Best Places to Work in IT. ChristianaCare is rated by Healthgrades as one of America’s 50 Best Hospitals and continually ranked among the nation’s best by U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek and other national quality ratings. ChristianaCare is a nonprofit teaching health system with more than 260 residents and fellows. With its groundbreaking Center for Virtual Health and a focus on population health and value-based care, ChristianaCare is shaping the future of health care.

About the ChristianaCare Gene Editing Institute

The Gene Editing Institute, a wholly owned subsidiary of ChristianaCare, is a worldwide leader in CRISPR gene editing technology and the only institute of its kind based within a community health care system. The Gene Editing Institute takes a patient-first approach in its research to improve the lives of people with cancer and inherited diseases. Its education and outreach team are preparing the next generation of gene editing scientists through its on-site Learning Lab and immersive CRISPR in A Box™ teaching toolkit. Since 2015, researchers at the Gene Editing Institute have been involved in several ground-breaking firsts in the field that will help bring treatments to patients quickly and safely. Its researchers are currently investigating how best to use CRISPR-directed gene editing to overcome cancer drug resistance that develops in virtually all solid tumors and establish a “plug-and-play” model to treat lung and other cancers. The Gene Editing Institute, working with its spin out company CorriXR Therapeutics, will seek approval from the FDA to start clinical trials in humans in 2025.