AstraZeneca has announced four research collaborations that will use CRISPR, a pioneering genome-editing technique, to identify and validate potential drug targets.
CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) allows specific genes to be manipulated in preclinical models, offering insights into their role in disease pathology. The technology has two components: guide-RNA that hones in on a specific section of DNA; and Cas9 nuclease, an enzyme that cuts the target DNA sequence.
One of the company’s partners is The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, UK. AstraZeneca will provide cell lines that can be targeted using the Institute’s collection of genome-wide CRISPR guide-DNA libraries to generate populations of cells in which defined genes are switched off.
The other three collaborations are with institutions in the United States: The Innovative Genomics Initiative – a joint venture between the University of California, Berkeley and University of California, San Francisco; Thermo Fisher Scientific, Massachusetts, a reagent and instrument provider; and the Broad and Whitehead institutes, biomedical research centres, also in Massachusetts.
AstraZeneca also has an in-house programme aimed at harnessing CRISPR technology for use in cell lines and translational models.
“Application of the CRISPR technology for precise genome editing in recombinant cell lines and in relevant disease models should enable us to identify novel targets, build better test systems for drug discovery and enhance the translatability of our efficacy and safety models,” says Lorenz Mayr, vice president, reagents & assay development, AstraZeneca.