Ryan Englander, a graduate of Suffield High School, has developed a new gene editing technique for the treatment of cancer, along with two other students, at the University of Connecticut. Their technique promises to vastly increase the selectivity with which current gene editing technologies can modify cancer cells while sparing the surrounding tissue. In theory, these new capabilities permit the insertion of genetic elements that cause the cancer cells to kill themselves or make the tumor more susceptible to attacks from the patient’s immune system. Both of these strategies would significantly reduce the devastating side effects that often accompany conventional radiation or chemotherapy.
Ryan and his team have started a company, Vitalyx, to fund their efforts, and filed a utility patent in May 2017 to protect their innovation. They are currently researching the technology’s potential in a lab at UConn Health. Ryan will be taking this project with him as he matriculates into an MD/PhD program this fall.