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14 September, 2018 - 10:57 By Tony Quested

AstraZeneca at the double to back genetic discovery initiative

Global pharma giant AstraZeneca has handed Cambridge neighbour Horizon Discovery a double boost and enhanced the UK cluster’s drive to establish a world lead in the technology driving personalised medicines.

Horizon is a global leading business in gene editing and gene modulation technologies and AZ has adopted the company’s Edit-R™ crRNA libraries as part of a drive to establish a functional genomics discovery platform. 

AstraZeneca has also joined the Genomics Discovery Initiative (GDI) – a collaborative functional genomics screening community facilitated by Horizon.

AstraZeneca has been evaluating Horizon’s Edit-R human whole genome crRNA library for gene knockout since late 2017 and will soon add the company’s platform of arrayed synthetic crRNA libraries for CRISPR-mediated transcriptional activation (CRISPRa). 

The libraries are said to offer a powerful tool for functional genomic screens in drug discovery, providing deeper insight into biological mechanisms for the purpose of understanding disease progression, host-pathogen relationships, drug interactions, and pathway analysis.

Horizon’s Edit-R CRISPR-Cas9 synthetic crRNA libraries for both knockout (loss-of-function) and activation (gain-of-function) enable whole genome analysis in an arrayed format, allowing researchers to carry out high-content, multiparametric analyses on a one-well-per-gene basis. 

The portfolio includes catalogue libraries for popular human and mouse gene families in addition to druggable gene targets and the whole human genome. Bespoke collections are also available to support researchers working with a specialised gene target list.

Terry Pizzie (pictured), Horizon’s CEO, said: “Our ongoing relationship with AstraZeneca is providing valuable insights into the scope and capabilities of CRISPR screening which will be of benefit to the research and discovery community, ultimately bringing drugs to market faster.”

Steve Rees, head of discovery biology at AstraZeneca’s IMED Biotech Unit added: “The scientific support and degree of collaboration with the scientists at Horizon has been really impactful in ensuring we are able to harness the full potential of the platform. 

“We have been impressed with the performance of the Edit-R synthetic crRNA, and look forward to feeding our drug discovery pipeline with data generated from the CRISPRa crRNA libraries.”

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