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We are faculty who share a common interest in developing methods for modifying DNA in living cells.
Applications of CGE technology are varied, and include:

  • enabling gene discovery
  • making better plants and animals for agriculture
  • developing regenerative medicine
  • providing therapeutic strategies to correct mutations underlying genetic disease

About Us

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The ability to modify DNA in living cells is revolutionizing the life sciences. For the past fifteen years, members of the Center for Genome Engineering (CGE) have led the charge in developing new, powerful genome modification technologies.  Contributions have ranged from construction of the first, functional vertebrate transposon (Sleeping Beauty) – which has proven effective for DNA delivery and mutagenesis – to the invention of Transcription Activator-like Effector Nucleases (TALENs). CGE technology advances functional genomics, provides therapeutic strategies to correct mutations underlying genetic disease, and has resulted in new crop varieties that are already in the field.


Synergy and collaboration

CGE serves as a nucleation point for the common research interests of its participants.  The primary meeting place for Center members is the bimonthly research seminar at which students and postdocs present their most recent scientific findings.  These meetings provide an educational opportunity for trainees and inspire new collaborations and research projects that capitalize on the members’ diverse expertise.  The Center also hosts a monthly inter-institutional webinar with colleagues from the Mayo Clinic, University of Iowa, Medical College of Wisconsin, Temple University, Southern Illinois University and Iowa State University. The webinar has resulted in collaborations between research groups and inter-institutional grants. The Center’s annual meeting, previously held at the University of Minnesota, has transitioned to an international conference sponsored every other year by FASEB.  On alternative years, CGE helps organize an international genome engineering meeting in collaboration with the external non-profit Genome Writer's Guild.

CGE promotes the shared research and educational objectives of its faculty by:

  • providing administrative support
  • maintaining service contracts for key pieces of equipment
  • bringing external seminar speakers who work in developing areas of genome engineering to the UofM
  • providing financial support to students and postdocs so they can present data at international meetings

Our History

Initially called the Center for Transposon Research, CGE was a grass roots organization formed by faculty interested in developing applications of the Sleeping Beauty transposon. 

In 2008, Dr. Dan Voytas joined the department of Genetics, Cell Biology and Development and assumed directorship of the Center, changing the name to the Center for Genome Engineering to reflect a broader scope and mission.  New faculty were recruited and Center activities and audience expanded. 

In 2017, directorship shifted to Dr. David Largaespada. Under Dr. Largaespada's leadership the new Talaria and Hatch award initiatives were created. We look forward to further growth under Dr. Largaespada's leadership. 

CGE Breakthroughs

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Sleeping Beauty

  • The use of Sleeping Beauty as a means of DNA delivery was licensed by Intrexon to develop novel CAR T cell therapies.
  • CGE faculty members Brandon Moriarity and David Largaespada used Sleeping Beauty as a mutagen to identify genes and pathways driving osteosarcoma development and metastasis, which led to IND application by Dr. Emily Greengard for a new antibody based sarcoma therapy.


  • TALEN technology, licensed by a French biotechnology company, was used to create a cancer immunotherapy; the first in-patient success was reported in late 2015:  complete cancer remission in an infant who was otherwise incurable.
  • Recombinetics, a start-up company involving a former and several current CGE faculty members, used the UMN’s TALEN technology to create new breeds of dairy cattle and pig models of human disease.
  • The first crop plants with new traits created by TALENs were planted during 2018 in mid-western fields
  • CGE faculty members, Scott Dehm and Dan Voytas, used TALENs to dissect the role of genome rearrangements and androgen independence in prostate cancer.

rAVV in human cells

The mechanism of gene targeting using nucleases and rAVV in human cells was elucidated by CGE faculty member Eric Hendrickson.

Faculty Accomplishments

CGE faculty member Reuben Harris named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator for his work on mutagenic cytidine deaminases, studying specifically their roles in cancer and restricting the spread of the AIDS virus.

CGE faculty member Dan Voytas elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2019.


MYC regulation

A new mechanism of MYC regulation was discovered by CGE faculty members, Anindya Bagchi, David Largaespada and Branden Moriarity, through the use of chromosome engineering.

CGE Founded Startups

The broad applicability of CGE technology makes it likely that additional entrepreneurial ventures will be formed that will help support the State’s economy.