Rice to establish Genetic Design and Engineering Center

By Erik L. Ridley, The Science Advisory Board contributing writer

August 24, 2021 -- Researchers at Rice University have received a five-year, $4 million grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) to establish a new Genetic Design and Engineering Center (GDEC).

The center will be established at Rice's BioScience Research Collaborative over the next few months and will provide cellular engineering services for Texas Medical Center, as well as other institutions that require custom DNA constructs, according to the university. The facility will be led by Gang Bao, PhD, chair of Rice's department of bioengineering.

The facility will aim to accelerate the pace, scale, and impact of cancer research by providing access to state-of-the-art tools for designing, constructing, and optimizing DNA constructs used to develop new disease treatments, the university said. Rice said that the GDEC will provide automated, high-throughput molecular cloning to facilitate large-scale experimental projects that would not be possible for individual labs.

Rice also noted that one of its scientists, Omid Veiseh, PhD, has received a $250,000 CPRIT grant to support research into cytokine factories for the treatment of mesothelioma. These CPRIT grants are among 62 awarded this week for a total of more than $142 million.

With these grants, the institute intends to expand access to clinical trials, incubate cancer research, support the state's emerging biotechnology industry, provide cancer screenings for underserved Texans, and recruit cancer researchers, according to the university.

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