Department of Physical Sciences Hosts Lecture

Bethel College’s department of physical sciences will host "Genetics and Epigenetics: Viewing Human Disease Through the Lens of the First and Second Codes of DNA." Presented by Nathan Lakey, president and CEO of Orion Genomics, the lecture will take place Monday, Apr. 6, at 4:00 p.m. in the Academic Center, room 342. 

Scientists have known about the triplet-base genetic code in DNA (and RNA) for more than 40 years. This code tells the cell's protein-making machinery exactly what protein to make, choosing from the 20 available amino acids that go into every protein. Recently a second code of DNA has been discovered which, among other things, tells how the genome is to be organized within a cell. This second DNA code has been termed "epigenetics," and can be used to diagnose certain disease states. These factors cause the organism's genes to behave differently or even be silenced. This can have effects upon cell differentiation, which is related to development of cancers, as well as development in the embryo, whereby many different kinds of cells arise from one fertilized egg cell or zygote.

In the last two decades, Lakey has helped start seven biotechnology companies focused on the application of first and second code DNA technologies to human health and to the production of food and biofuels. Lakey presently serves as president and chief executive officer of Orion Genomics LLC, where he is developing innovative cancer diagnostics based on epigenetic biomarkers, including a test to identify individuals at increased risk for colorectal cancer. Prior to founding Orion in 1998, Lakey was the director of DNA sequencing at Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Inc., where he established and managed Millennium’s large-scale sequencing department. Before joining Millennium, Lakey worked as a research associate at Harvard Medical School, department of genetics, where he focused on technology development for the Human Genome Project. Lakey received his B.A. in Biochemistry from the University of Texas in 1989.

For more information, please contact Rod White-Stevens, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry at 574.850.8560 or

Bethel College is an accredited Christian college of the arts and sciences offering associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees in more than 50 areas of study. The current enrollment of more than 2,000 includes students from 34 states and Puerto Rico, 20 countries, more than 25 denominations and 16 percent from culturally diverse backgrounds. Scholarships are available based upon a variety of factors including academic achievement, talent in the arts or athletics, ethnicity and church affiliation. Bethel offers classes at four locations: the Mishawaka campus, the Elkhart campus and satellite locations in Nappanee, Ind., and Dowagiac, Mich. The main Bethel campus is situated on 75 wooded acres in Mishawaka, Ind.