Genome/gene engineering or editing “is a method that lets scientists change the DNA of many organisms, including plants, bacteria, and animals. Editing DNA can lead to changes in physical traits, like eye color, and disease risk,” according to the National Human Genome Research Institute.
The first-ever attempt to genome engineer a living human embryo was published in April 22, 2015, by Protein & Cell. This attempt was possible due to the CRISPR-cas9 system that made gene-editing more accessible and easier than before.
“All life forms are due to their genome structure impacted by environment and lifestyle practices. Nature has been altering genomes for thousands of years leading to variants that survive,” says Dr TG Vasudevan, Associate Professor, Department of Biotechnology, Manipal School of Life Sciences, Manipal Academy of Higher Education. He talks to EducationWorld about the wonders of this new form of engineering and how to pursue it as a career choice.
What is genome engineering?
“Genome engineering is a process by which the genetic material of a life form can be modified in a suitable way with potential application in food, agriculture, animal and human health, microbial biotechnology among many others. Genome engineering can be accomplished by replacing, replenishing and editing the genome with sophisticated technologies. Genome engineering technologies have the potential to produce useful product(s) or lead to process for production in the field of biotechnology. These technologies also have the potential to prevent/control/cure innumerable diseases in humans, animals or plants.
Who should take up this course? What are the eligibility criteria/skills required for the course?
Students with the passion to pursue a career as a researcher in academia or industry in the field of biotechnology, molecular biology, cell biology, genetics are welcome to take up this course. The eligibility is to have a basic qualification in biology during the bachelor’s degree.
What is the duration of the course? Explain briefly what is taught in the course.
The programme is for a duration of two years. The curriculum covers teaching in all related aspects to be a successful researcher. These include developing knowledge and laboratory skills in the key areas of genome engineering such as cell biology, molecular biology, various genome engineering technologies, research methods, bioinformatics, biostatistics, biochemistry and other relevant areas including soft skills. There is also a hands-on project component in the programme during the final semester.
What are the future prospects of the course in terms of higher education, research and career? (Please mention remuneration as well)
Genome engineering market is expected to grow to $6.28 billion by 2022. The key drivers of this growth are the increase in genomics-based projects to address prevalence of diseases, food security and many more by academia and industry.
Successful graduation in the programme may facilitate jobs in biotechnology industries with remuneration starting from Rs. 30,000 (p.m.). Graduates can also pursue further studies in India or abroad towards the Ph.D. degree, and subsequently job opportunities in academia and industry with a salary of more than Rs.60,000 (p.m.).