Eric Kmiec, Ph.D.
Director, Gene Editing Institute
Helen F. Graham Cancer & Research Institute
Christiana Care Health System
B.A. Rutgers University
M.S. Southern Illinois University
Ph.D. University of Florida School of Medicine
Eric B. Kmiec, Ph.D., is well known for his pioneering work in the fields of molecular medicine and gene editing. Since 2014 he has directed the Gene Editing Institute of the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute at Christiana Care Health System.
Under Dr. Kmiec’s leadership, the Gene Editing Institute has become a leader in gene editing and biomedical research in cancer and other inherited disease. It is the only institute of its kind embedded in a community cancer center where interactions among oncologists, genetic counselors and patients take place. This unique collaboration brings translational cancer research – from innovative basic science directly to patient treatment – to an entirely new level.
Throughout his professional career, Dr. Kmiec has led research teams studying the reaction mechanics, biochemistry and molecular genetics of gene editing in human cells. His early work with sickle cell disease led to research and development of the next generation of gene editing tools, including CRISPRs (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) and to even more promising variations such as single-stranded DNA oligonucleotides (ssODNs) for the treatment of inherited disorders.
In April 2018, the team announced a major new development in the CRISPR Journal of the first CRISPR gene-editing tool to allow DNA repairs outside the human cell. The new “cell free” technology uses a protein called Cpf1 or Cas12a, that allows researchers to make multiple edits to DNA samples quickly and more precisely in vitro, that is, in a test tube or petri dish. This capability has generated unprecedented excitement about developing different CRISPR tools that could produce breakthrough treatments for a wide range of diseases by repairing a damaged gene, modifying it or deleting it entirely.
Thanks to a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation in 2017, the Gene Editing Institute is collaborating with Delaware Technical Community College to develop the first-ever gene editing curriculum for community college students in Delaware and across the nation.
Collaborations with public and private partners are working to accelerate the drive to personalized cancer care. They include an agreement in 2017 with Israeli-based NovellusDx that leverages innovative gene editing technology to find gene mutations amenable to customized gene editing treatments for cancer patients, as well as efforts to commercialize an automated chip-based platform for the latest CRISPR/Cpf1 system for use in cancer diagnostics.
In 2016, Dr. Kmeic and colleagues at The Gene Editing Institute described in the journal, Scientific Reports, how they combined CRISPR with short strands of synthetic DNA to greatly enhance the precision and reliability of the CRISPR gene editing technique. The new tool, called EXACT (excision and corrective therapy) serves as both a template and a bandage for repairing a malfunctioning gene.
To accelerate breakthrough cancer research in the human genome, the Gene Editing Institute entered into an agreement with The Wistar Institute in 2016. This partnership integrates the Gene Editing Institute into Wistar’s Molecular Screening Facility, which will allow its innovative gene editing technologies to be made available to research projects at Wistar and to external users.
Dr. Kmiec is the recipient of multiple research awards from the National Institutes of Health (RO1s, R21s), the American Cancer Society, the Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Foundation and other private foundations including the 2012 Proudford Foundation Unsung Hero Award in Sickle Cell Disease. He has been a member of numerous editorial boards, NIH study sections and review boards and is the (primary or corresponding) author of more than 155 scientific publications (mostly in genetic recombination and gene editing).
He holds 18 issued patents, most of which have been licensed by biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies and has founded two biotechnology companies. He is a senior scientific advisor and SAB member of ETAGEN, a gene editing company located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, centered on the development of therapeutic uses of gene editing.
Dr. Kmiec has been the primary mentor for 18 Ph.D. students and 4 MS students, all of whom have attained scientific positions. He has held or holds major administrative posts on various NIH regional and state biomedical research grants, including IDeA Network of Biomedical Research (INBRE) and Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE). Dr. Kmiec was also honored as the Eminent Scholar in residence at Marshall University (Huntington, West Virginia) in 2009-2011 and was elected as an Honorary Commander of the 436th Air Wing at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Delaware for in 2013 and again in 2014.