Genetics in Georgia
Newborn Genetics Screening
The state of Georgia has paid for newborn genetics screening since 1978. The program, developed in collaboration with the Emory University School of Medicine's Department of Human Genetics and Genetics Laboratory, tests all Georgia newborns for thirteen inherited diseases, including metabolic diseases. Emory, located in Atlanta, is one of the nation's leading research and treatment centers for inherited diseases, including lysosomal enzyme diseases, fragile X syndrome, and Down syndrome. Emory scientists are leaders in developing new enzyme replacement therapies for children born with Gaucher disease and Fabry disease, screening and treatment for maple syrup urine disease, and FISH technology (fluorescence in situ hybridization, which allows physicians to look for chromosomal abnormalities under a microscope). Emory's large staff of genetics counselors works with parents and prospective parents at centers throughout the state. In addition, genetics counseling and screening to predict adult cancers has developed rapidly since scientists discovered altered genes that increase the risk of breast, ovarian, and colon cancers.
University Genetics Research
Through support from the NIH, scientists at Emory and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have conducted sixteen years of research on the causes and clinical consequences of Down syndrome through the Atlanta Down Syndrome Project. All Atlanta-area newborns with Down syndrome and their parents are eligible to participate in the project. In 2000 the NIH expanded the Atlanta project into the National Down Syndrome Project by adding five other research centers (in Arkansas, California, Iowa, New Jersey, and New York).
The Department of Genetics at the University of Georgia (UGA) in Athens includes many faculty who teach genetics to undergraduate and graduate students. Graduate research and training includes molecular genetics, evolutionary biology, and genomics. Four genetics faculty members are also members of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences.
The UGA Center for Applied Genetic Technologies (CAGT) brings together diverse expertise in plant and animal genomics, DNA markers, and transformation (a process of genetic alteration) and provides state-of-the-art facilities and instrumentation. Within CAGT are research labs and the Georgia BioBusiness Center incubator, which supports start-up companies in the biosciences by providing them access to management expertise and sophisticated instrumentation.
The NIH-supported Southeast Collaboratory for Structural Genomics (SECSG) is a networked center across four southeastern states with five partner institutions: the University of Georgia, Georgia State University in Atlanta, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. The research focus of SECSG is high throughput computational strategies to determine the structure of proteins using X-ray crystallography and nuclear magnetic resonance. These strategies will eventually be used to scan rapidly the entire genome of an organism.
University-based technology incubators assist start-up companies in transferring university-developed technologies to industry. Several of these Georgia companies are focused on genetics research. At the Georgia BioBusiness Center, these companies include Abeome (genome-antibody-proteome); APGEN (applied phytogenetics); AviGenics (avian biotechnology); BresaGen (embryonic stem-cell therapies); PhyGen (plant biotechnology); and ViaGen (commercial breeding). At Emtech Bio, an Emory and Georgia Institute of Technology incubator, early-stage companies include geneRx+ (gene- and protein-based technologies for pulmonary diseases) and Vivonetics Inc. (RNA detection). At Georgia State's incubator, CollabTech, companies include Ana-Gen Technologies (pharmacogenetics); GeneCure LLC (gene-based therapies); and Zygogen LLC (genomic drug discovery).
Holly Korschun, Emory University
A project of the Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor.