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A Summer of Learning

STANTON – One of the highlights of Ojong Bate’s studies at Delaware Tech was her participation in the Stanton Campus’s undergraduate research program. Although she graduated in May, she has continued on the path she set out on at Delaware Tech through an INBRE summer research internship.

Delaware INBRE (IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence) was formed to create a state-wide inter-institutional biomedical research pipeline of capable and competitive biomedical research personnel. One of the goals of INBRE is to involve undergraduate institutions and their students in the research process.

Ojong is working with Dr. Eric Kmiec of Delaware State University at the Kmiec Lab. The pair is working on a project aimed at development of a highly efficient molecular cure for sickle cell disease through genomic editing. Genome editing is the process by which single base pairs are altered within the context of the chromosome using single-stranded DNA oligonucleotides (ssODNs).

“This summer, I am investigating through experimental designs the impact of length and dosage on the correction of a single base mutation in the eGFP (enhanced green florescence protein) gene, integrated into HCT116 cells (which are a colon cancer cell line). The eGFP cells will be identified using our in-house FACS instrument that not only quantifies but also enables measurement of the degree and extent of correction,” explains Ojong.

Ojong became interested in the topic of genome editing after reading an article about the research. “When I read the article, I did not stop thinking about how amazing it is for such new therapies to be developed,” she says. She reached out to Dr. Eric Kmiec, who was leading the research at Delaware State University, and he invited her to the lab for a visit. After the visit, he asked Ojong to work with his team for the summer.

Dr. Kmiec said the main mission of INBRE is to bridge research and education, so the mentorship fits right in with that goal. He said Ojong is learning to carry out valid scientific experiments with appropriate controls. “Her work will impact the development of a novel and exciting new gene therapy for Sickle Cell Disease.”

Ojong will take what she learns this summer and continue her education in a doctor of pharmacy program in the fall. She says the skill and knowledge she learned through her research experiences will help her throughout her career. “Research has changed my life in so many ways.”