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Promoting ‘genomic literacy’ could bridge gap between scientists and public

| | March 27, 2017
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

[Editor’s note: Gillian Tett is the US managing editor of the Financial Times.]

As I toured one of the laboratories [of HudsonAlpha in Huntsville, Alabama], I noticed a number of socks prominently pinned to the wall.

Neil Lamb, one of the staff, explained that the socks had a pedagogic purpose. A few years back, the HudsonAlpha team decided to reach out to the local population, to explain what their lab was doing and to promote “genomic literacy”. They faced an uphill challenge: genome sequencing is an alien concept to most adults, never mind kids.

So to bridge that gap the scientists turned to socks. The idea is that genes exist in pairs — so waving socks about helps to explain how DNA works, and why it matters. “It’s easier to remember,” Lamb told me,

I have heard many heart-warming stories about patients with rare diseases who have been saved by this technology…But there is a catch: as so often in science, the speed of innovation is dramatically outstripping the level of public awareness.

[I]n an ideal world, governments would embark on “genomic literacy” campaigns, insisting that the issue was taught in high school. In reality, though, the task of promoting the subject is largely left to scientists.

But in most of the US, the genomic revolution is occurring out of public sight and mind, unless somebody takes the initiative to go online and read about what is happening on websites such as the Genetic Literacy Project. Think about that the next time you see a pair of socks. If nothing else, they represent a powerful metaphor for the information gaps that plague our world — gaps that we all need to take active steps to plug.

[Editor’s Note: A paid subscription to The Financial Times is required to access this article.]

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: The Secret Genomic Revolution

For more background on the Genetic Literacy Project, read GLP on Wikipedia.

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