Cancer Research UK and AstraZeneca launch functional genomics centre

The centre will be a dedicated resource for AstraZeneca and Cancer Research UKs academics and alliance partners working at all stages of translational research

Cancer Research UK and AstraZeneca have announced that they are opening a new UK centre dedicated to realising the full potential of functional genomics in the discovery and development of new drugs for patients with cancer.

This partnership will explore the function and interaction of genes and proteins in cancer, and apply new genome-altering technologies such as CRISPR, to create sophisticated models of the disease for research.

The Joint Cancer Research UK - AstraZeneca Functional Genomics Centre will be a dedicated resource for AstraZeneca and Cancer Research UKs academics and alliance partners working at all stages of translational research, from target discovery and validation, to assessing novel drug combinations.

By combining the experience and expertise of both organisations in cancer biology and functional genomics, including CRISPR technologies, its hoped that this state-of-the-art facility will help deliver new treatments to patients much faster.

As we develop high-quality standardised techniques through the centre, we can create more sophisticated and powerful biological models of disease, handle larger and more complex data sets, and identify successful cancer drug targets with better accuracy

Building on the transformative potential of CRISPR for gene editing and understanding cancer biology, this centre will be a major driver for the use of CRISPR in drug discovery and development in the UK and is being established with the expert guidance of Professor Greg Hannon, director of the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute. He said: "This new centre will be a huge asset to the UK cancer research community and will accelerate the development of new treatments for people with cancer.

"After two decades of effort, we're making fast progress but we're still only just beginning to tap into the full potential of CRISPR and to understand how this is applied alongside other functional genomics approaches. As we develop high-quality standardised techniques through the centre, we can create more sophisticated and powerful biological models of disease, handle larger and more complex data sets, and identify successful cancer drug targets with better accuracy."

The centre will be housed in the Milner Therapeutics Institute at the University of Cambridge and operationalised through Cancer Research UKs Therapeutic Discovery Laboratories - the charity's in-house drug discovery unit focused on establishing drug discovery alliances with industry. The specialist staff employed by both organisations at the centre will facilitate collaborative projects.

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