Guests of GMGI’s event in Kendall Square network and socialize before the panel begins


Groundbreaking Marine Science Surfaces in Kendall Square

The distance between Kendall Square and GMGI may be almost 40 miles, but the scientific connections and collaborations make it feel much closer. On October 10, GMGI Science Director Andrea Bodnar joined a panel of Cambridge thought-leaders and leading biotech scientists -- including GMGI Board Members Marc Vidal, JC Gutierrez-Ramos and David Walt, as well as MIT scientist and professor Jim Collins -- to discuss significant trends in oncology, synthetic biology, diagnostics, microbiome-based therapeutics and how these technologies can be applied in the marine environment.

Moderator Bob Buderi, founder and chairman of Xconomy, described the evening as “a deep dive into genomics” with Marc Vidal kicking off the discussion by explaining how his lab at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Center for Cancer Systems Biology is using genomics for advances in cancer research. Andrea Bodnar spoke about GMGI’s study of sea urchins, creatures that appear to naturally resist aging and cancer, and possible applications for human health.

JC Gutierrez-Ramos and Andrea then spoke about microbiome-based therapeutics, with JC explaining how GMGI changed his perspective on studying the human microbiome. “I thought the possibility of that diversity [in the human body] was enormous until I came to GMGI. After my first conversation with Andrea and David Walt, I realized that possibility for therapeutics and many different applications was insignificant compared to the possibility of microbes derived from the sea.” Andrea also talked about the $200 billion dollar aquaculture industry and how using microbes for therapeutics can also be used in treatments for aquatic animals and that “you can accelerate new drug discovery by focusing on marine microbes.”

Jim Collins and David Walt both touched on recent advances in diagnostics through synthetic biology and the ‘-omics’ technologies. Jim Collins defined synthetic biology as “bringing together engineers with molecular biologists and using engineering principles to redesign living organisms to endow them with novel functions.” Jim’s lab designed the type of paper-based diagnostic tests that GMGI scientist Tim Sullivan is using to go after pathogens that are bedeviling shrimp aquaculture farms. These quick and sensitive diagnostics may be a breakthrough in the aquatic environment not only diagnosing devastating disease in aquatic animals, but also in important environmental monitoring.

David Walt spoke about the development of these diagnostic technologies on a broader level and how the -omics technologies are enabling researchers to approach diagnosing humans in a new way. By bringing the -omics technology to diagnostics, it “allows us to home in on things that go awry in disease. It’s no longer going to be a guessing game because we are going to have fully characterized all the different changes that occur in various kinds of cancers and neurological diseases and infectious disease that will then allow us to do something medicine does not allow us to do today, which is follow people longitudinally.” This allows scientists to watch changes over time, with the potential to catch and treat cancer and disease much earlier.

The event showcased the cutting-edge research that GMGI is doing at the research institute on Gloucester Harbor, and how important the link between the science ecosystems of Cambridge and Gloucester really is. Andrea Bodnar concluded the evening, saying “By taking technologies and applying them to the sea, we can really start to answer important questions about how ecosystems function and what’s happening as the climate changes. We can make predictive models so this becomes a very, very powerful tool to really understand the ocean in a deep way.”

Jim Collins of MIT & the Broad Institute talks to the crowd about advances in diagnostics

Panelists discuss significant trends in genomics and applications to the marine environment

Our mission is to conduct world-class marine biotechnology research which expands the regional economy.

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Genomics Institute

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Gloucester, MA 01930

Gloucester Biotechnology

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Gloucester, MA 01930

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