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SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Carmen Gonzalez, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Marty Puranik, Marco Meinardi

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Human Genome Pioneer Eric Lander to reveal “the secret of life”

In the past 10 years, the ability to decode or “sequence” DNA has grown by a million-fold, a stunning rate of progress that is producing a flood of information about human biology and disease. Because of these advances, the scientific community — and the world as a whole — stands on the verge of a revolution in biology. In the coming decades scientists will be able to understand how cells are “wired” and how that wiring is disrupted in human diseases ranging from diabetes to cancer to schizophrenia. Now, with his free online course, 7.00x Introductory Biology: The Secret of Life, genome pioneer Eric Lander, the founding director of the Broad Institute and a professor at MIT and Harvard Medical School, will explain to students around the world the basics of biology – the secret of life, so to speak – so that they can understand today’s revolution in biology.

EdX, the not-for-profit online learning initiative founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), brings the best courses from the best faculty at the best institutions to anyone with an Internet connection. For the past 20 years, legendary teacher Lander has taught Introductory Biology to more than half of all MIT students. He has now adapted his course for online education, creating the newest course on the edX platform. The course, 7.00X, is now open for enrollment, with the first class slated for March 5th. This course will include innovative technology including a 3D molecule viewer and gene explorer tool to transform the learning experience. It is open to all levels and types of learners.

“Introducing the freshman class of MIT to the basics of biology is exhilarating,” said Lander. “Now, with this edX course, I look forward to teaching people around the world. There are no prerequisites for this course – other than curiosity and an interest in understanding some of the greatest scientific challenges of our time.”

Those taking the course will learn the fundamental ideas that underlie modern biology and medicine, including genetics, biochemistry, molecular biology, recombinant DNA, genomics and genomic medicine. They will become familiar with the structure and function of macromolecules such as DNA, RNA and proteins and understand how information flows within cells. Students will explore how mutations affect biological function and cause human disease. They will learn about modern molecular biological techniques and their wide-ranging impact.

“Eric Lander has created this remarkable digitally enhanced introduction to genetics and biology,” said Anant Agarwal, President of edX. “With this unique online version, he has brought the introductory biology course to a new level. It has been completely rethought and retooled, incorporating cutting-edge online interactive tools as well as community-building contests and milestone-based prizes.”

With online courses through edX like 7.00x, what matters isn’t what people have achieved or their transcripts, but their desire to learn. Students only need to come with a real interest in science and the desire to understand what's going on at the forefront of biology, and to learn the fundamental principles on which an amazing biomedical revolution is based – from one of the top scientist in the world. 7.00x Introductory Biology: The Secret of Life is now available for enrollment. Classes will start on March 4, 2013.

Dr. Eric Lander is President and Founding Director of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, a new kind of collaborative biomedical research institution focused on genomic medicine. Dr. Lander is also Professor of Biology at MIT and Professor of Systems Biology at the Harvard Medical School. In addition, Dr. Lander serves as Co-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, which advises the White House on science and technology. A geneticist, molecular biologist and mathematician, Dr. Lander has played a pioneering role in all aspects of the reading, understanding and medical application of the human genome. He was a principal leader of the international Human Genome Project (HGP) from 1990-2003, with his group being the largest contributor to the mapping and sequencing of the human genetic blueprint. Dr. Lander was an early pioneer in the free availability of genomic tools and information. Finally, he has mentored an extraordinary cadre of young scientists who have become the next generation of leaders in medical genomics. The recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees, Dr. Lander was elected a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 1997 and of the U.S. Institute of Medicine in 1999.

Previously announced new 2013 courses include: 8.02x Electricity and Magnetism from Walter Lewin; Justice from Michael Sandel; Introduction to Statistics from Ani Adhikari; The Challenges of Global Poverty from Esther Duflo; The Ancient Greek Hero from Gregory Nagy; Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Computation from Umesh Vazirani; Human Health and Global Environmental Change, from Aaron Bernstein and Jack Spengler.

In addition to these new courses, edX is bringing back several courses from the popular fall 2012 semester: Introduction to Computer Science and Programming; Introduction to Solid State Chemistry; Introduction to Artificial Intelligence; Software as a Service I; Software as a Service II; Foundations of Computer Graphics.

About the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

The Eli and Edythe L. Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard was founded in 2003 to empower this generation of creative scientists to transform medicine with new genome-based knowledge. The Broad Institute seeks to describe all the molecular components of life and their connections; discover the molecular basis of major human diseases; develop effective new approaches to diagnostics and therapeutics; and disseminate discoveries, tools, methods and data openly to the entire scientific community.

Founded by MIT, Harvard and its affiliated hospitals, and the visionary Los Angeles philanthropists Eli and Edythe L. Broad, the Broad Institute includes faculty, professional staff and students from throughout the MIT and Harvard biomedical research communities and beyond, with collaborations spanning over a hundred private and public institutions in more than 40 countries worldwide. For further information about the Broad Institute, go to www.broadinstitute.org.

About edX

EdX is a not-for-profit enterprise of its founding partners Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology focused on transforming online and on-campus learning through groundbreaking methodologies, game-like experiences and cutting-edge research. EdX provides inspirational and transformative knowledge to students of all ages, social status, and income who form worldwide communities of learners. EdX uses its open source technology to transcend physical and social borders. We’re focused on people, not profit. EdX is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the USA.

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