Genetic Research

Paul Andrews /

With his silvery hair, his sun-and-wind-weathered skin, formidable stature and a booming, resonant voice, Wes Jackson steps out of his pickup truck in a blazer, radiating confidence. But 40 years ago, when he'd just given up a tenured professorship in California to set up shop in rural Kansas with the goal of transforming not just agriculture but the way humans live, he was appropriately daunted by the scale of his own ambition.

"I did it with a lot of doubt," he says with a laugh. "Especially in the middle of the night."

Paul Andrews /

Meet a prominent thinker who's a Kansas farm boy and "prairiebilly" turned geneticist, and hear the story of how and why he became a leader in the sustainable agriculture movement back in the 1970s. Jackson is retiring as president of the organization he started: The Land Institute in Salina, Kansas. 


Wikimedia -- Creative Commons

The U.S. Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that segments of naturally-occurring human genes cannot be patented. The ruling may change the focus of genomic research, but it won't stop it.

Professor Andrew Torrance specializes in biotechnology patent law at the University of Kansas. He says the ruling falls hardest on companies that have invested billions of dollars, hoping to profit from patents on human gene fragments like those that help reveal a person’s risk for breast cancer.

Mark McDonald / Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics

Recent advances in genome sequencing, including a technology developed at Children’s Mercy Hospital known as "fast sequencing," are helping medical professionals diagnose often-fatal diseases.