National DNA Day: Recognizing Historic Breakthroughs with an Eye on the Horizon


Since its inception nearly 70 years ago, the Coriell Institute for Medical Research has been committed to the betterment of human health. In that time, Coriell’s work has evolved as science has advanced, but over the decades, the Institute’s priority has remained centered on DNA and the ways that our genetic information can be used to better understand and improve our health.

As part of that mission, each year, we celebrate National DNA Day, a holiday organized by the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) to commemorate the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003 and the discovery of DNA’s double helix structure in 1953 – coincidentally the same year the Coriell Institute was founded.

For many years, Coriell has partnered with NHGRI to house and facilitate their Sample Repository of Human Genetic Research, collection of cell lines and DNA samples collected from people around the world. These samples were collected for the International HapMap Project and the 1,000 Genomes Projects and are widely used in research today.

Outside of research, DNA Day is a day to acknowledge the importance of scientific education. For nearly 40 years, the Coriell Institute has hosted a science fair for students in South Jersey and at each year’s event, a special activity is held to kick off DNA Day and educate young scientists about DNA. This year, students had a blast smashing strawberries and were walked through the process of DNA extraction. In the end, students could see with their own eyes DNA dangling from the end of a wooden probe.

Coriell will facilitate the same activity at this year’s Philadelphia Science Festival, a week-long event celebrating science in the City of Brotherly Love. Each year, the Philadelphia Science Festival closes a major artery of the city and packs it with exhibitors who show off their scientific work to the public. At last year’s festival, Coriell drew a huge crowd and demonstrated to many curious kids and teenagers the process of DNA extraction.

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