AstraZeneca’s genetic scissors to refine drugs

UK DRUG giant AstraZeneca said yesterday it has struck four research agreements in the hot area of genome editing as it bets on a new “genetic scissors” technology to deliver better and more precise drugs for a range of diseases.

The deals will allow AstraZeneca to use its so-called CRISPR technology, which stands for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, across its entire drug discovery platform.

The technology, which emerged two years ago, allows scientists to edit the genes of selected cells accurately and efficiently.

While existing techniques allow scientists to add genes to cells, CRISPR lets them make changes in specific genes far faster and in a much more precise way, helping with the creation of new drugs.

Yesterday’s deals include collaborations with the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, the Innovative Genomics Initiative in California, the Broad Institute and Whitehead Institute in Massachusetts, and Thermo Fisher Scientific, which build on an in-house CRISPR programme at AstraZeneca that has been running for over a year.

“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," said AstraZeneca’s head of innovative medicines and early development Mene Pangalos.

No financial details of the collaborations were disclosed, but AstraZeneca said it would share cell lines and compounds with partners, based on an open innovation research model.

Related articles