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Making an Impact

New Genetics Technologies for Human Health and Beyond

UC San Diego has established an initiative that leverages new genetics technologies for some of the world’s most urgent needs, ranging from public health to agriculture. Through a partnership with the India-based philanthropic Tata Trusts, UC San Diego scientists launched the Tata Institute for Genetics and Society with a goal to push the boundaries of bioscience to improve human health in a socially conscious and ethical manner.

The researchers are employing Active Genetics, a breakthrough gene-drive technology developed by UC San Diego biologists that controls the transmission of genetic traits, to modify mosquito populations and stop the spread of deadly malaria and other vector-borne diseases in India and California. Other Active Genetics applications include control of crop pests, development of new agricultural crop strains, new humanized mouse models of diseases such as cancer and new antibiotics.

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Student Impact and Experience

Eureka! Scholar Hannah Wang, BS '12, is grateful for the opportunity to get involved in research early on, and said Eureka! was instrumental in getting her interested in microbiology and viruses, then into medical school.

She subsequently started a pathology residency at Stanford, graduates this year, and will begin a fellowship in clinical microbiology with the goal of becoming a clinical microbiology lab director. She's interested in viruses that cause cancer and disease in immunosuppressed individuals.

"My recent research has been focused on developing novel diagnostics for COVID-19," Wang said. "I'm part of the high-paced Stanford virology laboratory that has gotten a lot of press this year. We developed one of the first FDA-authorized assays in the Bay Area, and helped make testing available as early as March 2020 to our local communities while CDC testing was still limited.

"It's definitely been incredibly rewarding to be able to contribute to the scientific and medical community during this pandemic, and this all would never have been possible if I hadn't had the support to get into research as a first-generation student."