Short Course in CRISPR: Gene-editing Applications for Investment and Entrepreneurial Decision-Making

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Harvard's Office of the Vice Provost for Advances in Learning (VPAL), in association with HarvardX - Harvard VPAL CRISPR: Gene-editing Applications - Understand the potential of CRISPR technology in the biofuel, agriculture, and healthcare industries.

Innovation in the biological sciences can often seem overshadowed by the glaring effects of digital technology on modern life. Under the hood, though, leaps in bioscience have the potential to have far greater impacts on lives and lifestyles than the digital side of technology ever could.

While the obvious effects on the potential of medicine to treat previously incurable disease are what first comes to mind, they undersell the potential effect that genetic editing can have on industries as diverse as agriculture and oil production.

Part of the reason that revolutionary breakthroughs such as gene-editing aren’t better known is that they are even more complicated than digital technology, and their effects far harder to explain.

As a manager, investor, or entrepreneur in the bio-tech space, you will increasingly find your business impacted by CRISPR-driven applications. If you’re not in the know, you could miss the opportunity of a lifetime – an online short course on CRISPR gene editing applications could make sure that doesn’t happen.



Why You Need to Understand CRISPR Gene-editing Technology

CRISPR is such a game changer in so many healthcare and scientific fields that it’s hard to even know where to start talking about its importance. That in itself is a good reason to invest your time in a short course devoted to understanding it better.

As an entrepreneur trying to see around the corner to spot the next big disruptive innovation in medical technology, or an angel investor considering opportunities that might include backing a genomics start-up, that kind of understanding could be worth untold sums. Your company could be the one to deliver the next breakthrough… if you have the knowledge and vision to make it happen.

The time to level up your expertise in the subject is now, before the wave hits. But it’s coming fast. According to NPR, CRISPR-based therapies have already been used, with some success, in patients with cancer and with those suffering from incurable genetic disorders such as sickle cell anemia. And news emerged in late 2018 that the first genetic editing of human embryos had been undertaken in China, edits that Technology Review claims could increase the cognitive potential of the twins born of the experiment.

With other projects underway aiming to restore vision to the blind, produce innovative biofuels, and program crop strains to grow bigger, stronger, and faster, CRISPR is touching industries from medicine to food to energy. And those are just the applications that look promising so far.

What to Look for in a Short Course on CRISPR Gene-editing Applications

It’s all that PhD candidates can do to wrap their heads around the intricacies of CRISPR genetic editing after years of study in the lab, but you shouldn’t let that stop you from getting an education that gives you the essential points you need to know as an investor or entrepreneur. A short course, offered by a major university, can help you build your knowledge level and understand the potential of the technology.

Because you don’t need the same level of expertise as the white-coat brigade, it won’t take years in the classroom to get what you need. A basic short course, lasting just over a month, and typically offered online, can be enough to set you apart in your field.

It’s worth looking for the best education you can find, especially given the condensed nature of the short course format. You’ll be glad to learn that you don’t have to work that hard to find an exceptional program since they’re now being offered online by top universities involved in CRISPR research, including such Ivy League research stalwarts as Harvard.

The programs are easier to get into than you might think too – Harvard’s 8-week course doesn’t require any previous knowledge or lab skills to enter, and specifically caters to professionals in industries as diverse as biotechnology and government.

It’s also worth looking at the experience the school has in the field and what specific areas of research it is strong in. Searching for a course from a school that is strong in a field that aligns with the industries or gene-editing applications you’re most interested in will ensure the program is properly oriented to your goals.

What You’ll Take Away from a Short Course on CRISPR Gene-editing Technology

Most courses are split into a series of modules covering the various aspects of genetic engineering and CRISPR-editing. The way these are divided up will depend on the instructor and the intent of the course, and may spread these subjects over several different modules or may consolidate others into a single module with a specific perspective.

A comprehensive introduction – Because you may be coming in cold to the field and because it is changing so rapidly, the first thing you should expect is a crash-course in the essential elements of molecular biology—where all the action happens.

An overview of current applications – Because the applications and potential of the technology are so broad, you should expect some broad perspective on medical and industrial applications of CRISPR-technology in development today, including:

  • Diagnostics
  • Environmental services
  • Energy industry
  • Crop sciences
  • Therapeutics

Ethical approaches to testing and development – Meddling with genes is a powerful and sometimes controversial technology, and one that demands thoughtful and informed decision-making processes. The Chinese embryo-editing experiment has the potential to radically alter the children involved in ways that many would see as positive… but at the same time raises tremendous concerns over issues of consent and responsibility. A good short course will present the current thinking of ethicists and help you to understand the controversies surrounding CRISPR.

Future developments and technical evolution – Today’s CRISPR Cas9 editing process are already giving way to Cas12 and Cas13 systems. No one can tell what the future will hold in the way of more subtle or effective approaches, but your short course should at least keep you informed about the directions that research is headed and what some of the more promising avenues of exploration are.

As gene editing technology evolves, even more subjects could be covered in short courses on CRISPR.

Taking Your CRISPR: Gene-editing Applications Short Course Online

Online instruction is the perfect fit for cutting-edge subjects like CRISPR and most short courses are offered through platforms that are very experienced in the business of online learning, including names like edX, Coursera, GetSmarter. Some are offered directly through individual college learning management systems (LMS) from schools that have been offering degrees online for years.

These programs deliver an experience that is every bit as effective as a real-world classroom, only with more freedom and flexibility to study and learn in ways and at times that are easiest for you. Asynchronous course delivery means that class content is available 24/7, allowing you to study in your kitchen at 2am or in the back of an Uber on the way to the airport.

Many online learning platforms are beginning to distribute their own apps, which puts the complete course on your phone or tablet, instantly available for reference or study. Combined with the now-standard conferencing, virtual blackboard, digital library, and online chat systems, it’s a system that ties you together with content, instructors, and fellow students every bit as effectively as traditional classes… without the hassle of carving an arbitrary two or three hours out of your busy schedule.

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