Genomics for Everyone is a 9-week self-guided online course developed by Geneforum. It is designed to give you a basic understanding of genomics and its relevance to your daily and/or professional life. There are no prerequisites for this course. Though challenging, the course is intended in large part to test the notion that motivated members of the public can successfully engage the important questions and materials without a great deal of prior experience.
If there is a group of professional geneticists and nobody calls them, achieving widespread genomic competency won’t be effective; If the public isn’t interested, it’s not going to happen; If the general medical profession doesn’t believe in it, it’s not going to happen; and if nobody knows how to do it, it’s not going to happen.Bruce Korf, MD, PhD, Wayne H. and Sara Crews Finley Professor of Medical Genetics, University of Alabama
According to some experts, the human body, virtually unchanged for thousands of years, may be about to undergo a bewildering variety of modifications. With the announcement in 2015 that a Chinese laboratory had performed a novel and reliable (“CRISPR”) technique of gene editing (silencing, enhancing or changing specific genes) that even works in higher organisms may eventually stretch the very meaning of the word “human” beyond all previous limits. (See: Genome editing with CRISPR)
We can only guess at the social, legal, and ethical questions that such genetic modification in humans will raise, especially if applied to germ line cells (sperm, eggs and embryos). But one thing is certain: there will have to be inspired, logical thinking by an engaged and informed citizenry about which biomedical roads we want to go down if our children and grandchildren are to deal responsibly with the challenges ahead.
Genomics is an area where people of all ages often lack the background to understand and evaluate the now common news headlines reporting genomics-based research. Advances in genomic sciences and technologies have changed our understanding of a large number of phenomena that are of biological medical, environmental, and societal importance.
Typically, students encounter genomics for the first time in undergraduate classrooms, if ever. Otherwise, genomics education usually occurs as part of graduate education in some areas of the sciences, engineering and healthcare. Thus, a large proportion of college-educated citizens have little or no understanding of genomics. At the high school-level, even fewer people will have had exposure to basic genomics concepts.
To address that specific issue, one Harvard-based group founded in 2007—a diverse mix of scientists and educators engaging with science policy, curriculum reform, and – more broadly – the ways in which genetic information might transform health care, basic research, insurance, law, and our ideas about family, privacy, and identity, the Personal Genetics Educational Project aims to get people talking about the potential benefits and implications of the fast-approaching world of personal genetics.
As genomics continues to influence healthcare, and our fundamental understanding and manipulation of the world, it will become increasingly important for everyone to have a basic understanding of the genome sciences and technologies.
And that is the overarching purpose of this website and course: To create an educational website to help foster an increased “genomic literacy” for the naïve public/patient – as well as their general non-professional health care providers – based on a more complete understanding of the potential medical applications and implications of genomic innovation and application.
Note: The information on this site is constantly evolving (like the field of genomics) and thus content will be frequently updated and curated through a community of scientists, policymakers, science educators, students and the general public.