says it hopes CRISPR will 'accelerate the discovery of novel treatments' for diabetes,
cancer and heart disease in particular.
stands for 'clustered
regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats', allows scientists to
cut out or alter genes of interest in a length of DNA so that they can be
investigated in greater detail. The technology relies on two components, an RNA-guide which acts like a homing device to the relevant gene, and an enzyme that cuts the DNA.
become known as a 'genetic scissors' technique but it also allows for greater genetic
manipulation including the ability to add nucleotides to the gene sequence.
four international partners in the venture all have specific roles to play.
A team at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute will focusing on
deleting genes relevant to cancer, cardiovascular, respiratory, and autoimmune and
inflammatory diseases in order to better understand their role.
The Innovative Genomics Initiative,
based at the University of California, USA, will focus on inhibiting and activating genes
in order to understand their role in disease pathology and also work on target
Thermo Fisher Scientific, a
reagent and instrument company, will provide the RNA-guide libraries that
target individual genes and gene families. This will allow AstraZeneca to
screen these guides against cell lines to identify new disease targets.
Finally, the Broad
Institute and Whitehead Institutes in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, will work
to evaluate a genome-wide CRISPR library against a panel of cancer cell lines.
Biotechnology industry publication FierceBiotech said the 'ambitious' project represented AstraZeneca's attempt 'to create a new
foundation for its once widely ridiculed research and development' operations. The
partnership, it said, 'will eventually offer some insight into whether a big
corporation can effectively pursue the kind of complex, innovative scientific
teamwork needed to actually deliver new programmes for clinical development'.