AstraZeneca announced a new collaboration with Cancer Research UK to launch a centre of excellence in genetic screening, cancer modelling and big data processing aimed at accelerating the discovery of new cancer medicines.
The Functional Genomics Centre will further develop CRISPR technology to better understand the biology of cancer, creating biological models that may be more reflective of human disease, and advancing computational approaches to better analyse big datasets. These approaches are designed to inform new druggable targets in oncology by using clinical insights to better understand tumour disease and resistance mechanisms.
Functional genomics aims to understand the complex relationship between genetic changes happening within DNA and how these translate to cellular changes in disease. Knowing the functional genomic drivers of disease enables scientists to more accurately select the right drug targets and increases the probability of success in the clinic.
Mene Pangalos, Executive Vice President, Innovative Medicines & Early Development, AstraZeneca, said: “The best science doesn’t happen in isolation which is why AstraZeneca is committed to advancing innovative science through collaboration. This new centre of excellence with Cancer Research UK will combine our expertise in functional genomics and CRISPR technology to identify new biological pathways driving disease and will accelerate the development of new cancer medicines for patients.”
Dr Iain Foulkes, Cancer Research UK’s Executive Director of Research and Innovation, said: “We’re delighted to collaborate with AstraZeneca on this exciting new initiative which will give leading Cancer Research UK scientists and our alliance partners access to the latest in CRISPR technology. As we move into an era of personalised medicine, we’ve reached a turning point in our ability to harness powerful technologies in the pursuit of targeted cancer therapies. We hope that this will translate into urgently needed new therapies for patients with hard to treat cancers such as lung, pancreatic, oesophageal and brain tumours.”
The Functional Genomics Centre will be located at the Milner Therapeutics Institute at the University of Cambridge. AstraZeneca and Cancer Research UK will have independent use of the Centre’s facilities, and their scientists will work alongside each other to facilitate collaboration, technical innovation and scientific progress.
At the Centre, scientists will have access to the next generation of CRISPR libraries for silencing or activating every gene in the genome, accessed through an extension of the existing collaboration between AstraZeneca and the Wellcome Sanger Institute. This collaboration includes access to the Wellcome Sanger Institute’s most recent versions of human and mouse genome-wide CRISPR/Cas9 knockout libraries, as well as Cas9 and dual gRNA expression vectors. This extends the application of CRISPR technology with vectors, providing enhanced sensitivity and specificity in gene editing, leading to easier targeting and identification.
A separate collaboration between AstraZeneca and the Califo rnia-based Innovative Genomics Institute (IGI) will aim to use CRISPR to uncover genes and disease pathway mechanisms involved in DNA Damage Response (DDR), a key process involved in many cancers and one of AstraZeneca’s four key platforms in oncology. Research will focus on identifying potential therapeutic strategies for DDR inhibitors, including combinations, in oncology.
AstraZeneca is a global, science-led biopharmaceutical company that focuses on the discovery, development and commercialisation of prescription medicines, primarily for the treatment of diseases in three therapy areas - Oncology, Cardiovascular, Renal & Metabolism and Respiratory. AstraZeneca operates in over 100 countries and its innovative medicines are used by millions of patients worldwide.
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