Pro-life research company explores genome editing technology


By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

Cellular Engineering Technologies, Inc. (CET), a biotechnology company based in Coralville, recently entered into a license agreement with Ireland-based ERS Genomics. CET founder Dr. Alan Moy, a Catholic, believes this move will help his company “create next generation stem cells that better serve the life science market.”

ERS Genomics sells licenses to use the intellectual property of Nobel Prize winner Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier. CET is particularly interested in Charpentier’s CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing technology, which has the potential to prevent and treat human diseases.

For the past two decades, CET has worked in conjunction with John Paul II Medical Research Institute (JPIIMRI), an Iowa City-based nonprofit organization, to create alternatives to medical research and treatments that use embryonic stem cells. The Catholic Church teaches that each human being is a person from the moment of conception and recognizes each individual’s rights, including at the embryonic stage.


The Iowa organizations have been working to find ways to use adult stem cells to treat a variety of diseases and to reduce demand for embryonic stem cell research and treatments. Adult stem cells are undifferentiated cells that multiply by cell division to replenish dying cells and regenerate damaged tissues. Researchers can harvest these adult stem cells without destroying a human life, unlike the harvesting of embryonic stem cells.

According to U.S. National Library of Medicine, genome editing is under exploration in research on a wide variety of diseases, including cystic fibrosis, hemophilia and sickle cell disease. It also holds promise for the treatment and prevention of more complex diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, mental illness and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. The CRISPR-Cas9 system has generated interest in the scientific community because it is reported to be faster, cheaper, more accurate and more efficient than other existing genome editing methods.

CET plans to integrate its adult stem cell technology with this genome editing technology. “This will offer greatly improved cells to produce therapeutic biologics, viral vectors for cell and gene therapy, and vaccines for both the human and animal health sectors,” according to a news release.

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