The University of California, San Diego has announced a partnership with the Mumbai-based Tata Trusts to establish a genetics institute dedicated to bioscientific research and scientific capacity building in India.
To be complemented by a collaborative research enterprise in India (TIAGS-India), the Tata Institute for Active Genetics and Society will focus on supporting research aimed at developing solutions to some of the world's most pressing problems, ranging from health care to agriculture. UCSD will match the trusts' gift of $70 million, with the funds to be used to create ten endowed chairs. In the area of basic research, the institute will focus on applications of "active genetics," a new field that incorporates a method called "gene drive" to generate mutations in more than one copy of a gene in a single generation. In addition to efforts currently underway to develop mosquitoes that are unable to propagate malarial parasites, the institute will undertake research on genetic improvements to crops, new forms of cell therapy, and ways to control microbial pathogens.
"Recent discoveries in genetics have created a new understanding of genes — not only just what they are or how they work, but also how they change or can be altered," said Ethan Bier, professor of biology and Paul Allen Foundation Distinguished Investigator at UCSD. "This understanding, combined with the novel technology of gene editing, has opened new areas for exploration that have potential applications in areas ranging from new health therapies, to prevention of the spread of disease, to agriculture uses."
In the area of society and ethics, the institute will leverage UCSD's expertise in health, ethics, and policy and economics and connect Indian experts with larger research and education initiatives with the goal of providing ethical guidance for research activities in bioscience and the application of new technologies.
"This international collaboration to establish the Tata Institute for Active Genetics and Society," said UCSC chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla, "will spark new scientific research and discoveries that will ultimately help us tackle some of the biggest challenges that face humankind in a socially conscious and ethical manner."