GlaxoSmithKline aims to establish a state-of-the-art laboratory for CRISPR technologies via a new five-year collaboration with the University of California.
The new Laboratory for Genomics Research (LGR) will explore how gene mutations cause disease and develop new technologies using CRISPR to rapidly accelerate the discovery of new medicines.
The LGR is the brainchild of Professor Jennifer Doudna, University of California Berkeley (UCB), a co-inventor of CRISPR technology and Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Investigator; Professor Jonathan Weissman, University of California San Francisco (UCSF), a pioneer of CRISPR screening technology and HHMI Investigator; and Dr Hal Barron, Chief Scientific Officer and President, R&D, GSK.
The LGR represents a novel hybrid model that brings together industrial and academic researchers under a single roof working on projects both together and independently.
The outputs of those research projects will be focused on technologies, new drug targets and biological mechanisms that will foster both academic and industrial advances.
The new laboratory will also be a resource for investigators at both University of California (UC) campuses, who can access and use its technology to answer their own biomedical or other biological questions, and to develop new tools that explore how genes work.
“Over the last seven years, CRISPR has transformed academic research, but until the LGR, we haven’t had a focused effort to catalyze the kind of research we know will lead to new innovation using this CRISPR tool,” said Prof Doudna.
“LGR is about building that space where creative science is partnered with the development of robust technology that will help develop tomorrow’s drugs. I think we’re going to be able to do science that none of us can even imagine today.”
The LGR will receive up to $67 million in funding over a five-year period which will include facilities for 24 full-time university employees funded by GSK, plus up to 14 full-time GSK employees.
With a focus on immunology, oncology and neuroscience, the laboratory will be based near the UCSF Mission Bay campus in San Francisco.
GSK’s artificial intelligence and machine learning group will also be involved in building the necessary computational pipelines to analyse all the data.
The LGR aims to automate existing CRISPR approaches so that this work can be done at scale. Ultimately the goal is to deepen our understanding of genetics and discover new targets, and to create next generation technologies that will become future standard practice for the pharmaceutical industry.