Playing Games with DNA

DNA Games Contracts Renewed with Carolina Biologicals

Danton H. O’Day and Roman Romaniuk, the co-inventors of two educational games Codon—The DNA Dice GameTM and Gene Rummy—The DNA Card GameTM, have renewed their contract with Carolina Biological Supply Company (Burlington, NC) for another 10 years. Professor Emeritus O’Day has also signed a 10-year contract for the continued sale of his game, Messenger—The RNA GameTM. Carolina Biologicals is a world-wide leader in the supply of teaching materials. All three games have been strong sellers to Home Schoolers, High Schools, Colleges and Universities worldwide for the last 15 years. New marketing approaches, including implementing digital components plus the development of teaching kits, are designed to continue this legacy.

Codon™ & Gene Rummy™

Codon Carolina '05 Gene Rummy Carolina '05

Understanding the importance of DNA in our lives is no longer an option; it is a necessity. With the basic sequencing of the human genome, there is talk of using genetic identification in many ways, not all of them good. Can you imagine having to carry a Genetic Identification Card? Scientists project that this will happen within 20 years. DNA profiling is already touted as a way for insurance companies to protect their interests (i.e., avoiding high risk individuals). Employers could use it in hiring decisions. Imagine this: a single change in one of your 3 billion DNA bases could make you an outcast. On the positive side, your doctor may use your Genetic ID Card to determine if a defective gene you possess will affect the health of you or your children. DNA technologies are being developed that someday may correct such defects. Understanding DNA is essential for other reasons. Bioengineered crop plants are already being used in our food. How many people really understand what this means? Biotechnology is used by pharmaceutical companies to develop new drugs with exciting recent results. These are a few of the reasons everyone should understand not only what DNA is but also what it can and cannot do. But it all starts with the basics.

Codon™ and Gene Rummy™ are two fun games that were invented by Roman Romaniuk and Danton O'Day to teach DNA fundamentals.

Rolling the unique DNA Dice™ or dealing the special Gene Rummy™ Cards quickly introduces them to the four bases of DNA: Guanine (G), Cytosine (C), Adenine (A) and Thymine (T). The accompanying easy-to-read game books detail the structure and relationships between these bases and how sets of three bases (a codon) “code” for specific amino acids. In Codon™ focusing in on specific diseases emphasizes the relationship between DNA, mutation and protein structure while Gene Rummy™ uses specific proteins of the human body to drive home these same points.

While game play is based on real science, students don't require any previous knowledge to play, so it is a great way to ease into what many consider a difficult topic. Their knowledge will grow quickly. Since points are awarded based upon frequency of codon use, students quickly learn to relate specific codons to certain amino acids. They also begin to understand how a simple mutation (base change) leads to the specification of a different amino acid that in turn alters the encoded protein. By design, the games are playable by students of all ages from junior high through university. In addition to serving as a source of information about genes, proteins and disease, the game books also suggest alternative games to keep student interest high.

Messenger: The RNA Game

Danton O’Day extended the Codon game by developing “Messenger: The RNA Game”. Student "scientists" identify amino acid sequences for key proteins in 5 common human diseases: cancer, AIDS, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, and diabetes. The game is played by rolling dice and associating codons with the appropriate amino acids.

So get ready, the DNA future is already upon us. Don't gamble on your students' future, let them roll the DNA Dice™ and learn what the future means. We may not have Genetic ID Cards but we do have Gene Rummy™ Cards to get them started.

Available From Carolina Biological Supply Company (



Gene Rummy™
Under revision/updating, contact Professor O'Day for more details

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Last update:  August 2017.