How is AstraZeneca integrating CRISPR into its R&D platform?

AstraZeneca, together with its academic collaborator The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, is currently hosting an international meeting of CRISPR experts at the Wellcome Genome Campus in Cambridge. The aim of the meeting is to foster greater collaboration between academia and industry in applying CRISPR technology to drive the development of new treatments for human disease. Learn more about how AstraZeneca is implementing CRISPR into its drug discovery processes.

CRISPR technology represents the next generation of genome editing tools. One of the things that makes this so exciting is that this tool allows us to be much more precise in the editing process than ever before. In addition, it is relatively easy and cost-effective to use. It is still early days with CRISPR but what is important to note is the exciting potential that this technology holds for advancing knowledge into the role that genes play in disease and how we might treat or even cure disease.

In January 2015, AstraZeneca announced four key collaborations with academia. All of these collaborations are now up and running and are productive. Twelve months on we are proud to be hosting an international CRISPR collaboration together with one of our collaborators, The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute at their Genome Campus in Cambridge, UK. This conference has been oversubscribed and we look forward to stimulating exchange of ideas between academia and industry on the potential of CRISPR to lead to treatments for human diseases.

At the conference we will be reporting how our collaborations have now yielded data around the discovery of novel drug targets using CRISPR and how we are testing these hypotheses with in-house projects in our research hubs in Gothenburg and Cambridge. We plan to publish our discoveries in scientific journals in the coming months.

CRISPR technology is enabling AstraZeneca scientists to better understand the role that genes and the genome play in disease and is helping to accelerate and improve the drug discovery and development process.

Two key challenges facing the pharmaceutical industry today are the identification of novel therapeutic targets and the translatability of our preclinical models to the clinic. We believe that CRISPR will facilitate progress in both of these areas. CRISPR technology will enable studies at the genome level with unprecedented ease and precision, such as genome-wide functional studies for the identification and validation of novel disease-relevant targets and pathways. CRISPR will also allow us to recapitulate human disease by building genetically modified models to test chemical compounds and biological molecules in more disease relevant systems, possibly helping to reduce the attrition of compounds that progress through the pipeline both in terms of efficacy and safety assessment.