Earlier today, British pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca announced plans to use a new gene-editing technology to develop drugs for a variety of diseases.
Called Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (Crispr), it allows the targeted editing of specific genes.
When a gene is known to be involved in causing a particular disease, it will be “snipped out” of the sufferer's DNA using enzymatic scissors, and then used in isolation to test drugs and find out how to solve the problem.
While Crispr is not the only gene-editing device to have been developed, AstraZeneca says it is easier to handle in a laboratory than other options.
“Crispr is a simple yet powerful tool that enables us to manipulate genes of potential importance in disease pathways and examine the impact of these modifications in a highly precise way,” Mene Pangalos, the company’s head of innovative medicines and early development, told the Wall Street Journal.
Diseases it will help in the development of treatments for include cancer, heart disease and diabetes, all of which have genetic causes. Normally the discovery of treatments requires years of work, but Crispr will allow the process to be sped up considerably.
Shares edge up
Shares in the company rose 1.8 per cent from £47.06 to £47.83 following the news. They have now fallen back slightly to £47.62.