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GlaxoSmithKline, UC's Doudna Establish $67M Genomics, CRISPR Research Lab

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Drug company GlaxoSmithKline announced today that it will establish a laboratory for CRISPR technologies as part of a five-year collaboration with University of California researchers.

The new Laboratory for Genomics Research (LGR) will investigate disease-causing gene mutations and develop new technologies using CRISPR to accelerate the discovery of new drugs, with a focus on immunology, oncology, and neuroscience. The LGR will receive up to $67 million in funding over the five-year collaboration period, including facilities for 24 full-time university employees funded by GSK, plus up to 14 full-time GSK employees, the company said. GSK's artificial intelligence and machine learning group will also aid in building any necessary bioinformatics pipelines. The laboratory will be based near the University of California, San Francisco's Mission Bay campus.

The LGR aims to automate existing CRISPR approaches so that this work can be done at scale. Ultimately, the lab's goal is to deepen researchers' understanding of genetics and discover new drug targets. They're also aiming to create next-generation technologies for the pharmaceutical industry, GSK added.

The LGR will also serve as a resource for investigators at both UCSF and the University of California, Berkeley who can access and use its technology to answer their own research questions and to develop new tools.

The LGR was developed by Berkeley professor and CRISPR expert Jennifer Doudna, UCSF Professor Jonathan Weissman, and GSK CSO and President of R&D Hal Barron.

"Over the last seven years, CRISPR has transformed academic research, but until the LGR, we haven't had a focused effort to catalyze the kind of research we know will lead to new innovation using this CRISPR tool," Doudna said in a statement. "LGR is about building that space where creative science is partnered with the development of robust technology that will help develop tomorrow's drugs. I think we're going to be able to do science that none of us can even imagine today."

The collaboration will be governed by a Joint Steering Committee with equitable UC and GSK representation, with additional joint sub-committees covering patents, scientific, and project management, GSK noted. Doudna and Weissman will sit on the committee along with GSK's new head of functional genomics, Chris Miller.

"One of our key goals is to advance the field overall and make these tools as broadly available as possible," Weissman added in the statement. "The LGR screening center will enable labs at UCSF and Berkeley, and having access to it will give our scientists opportunities to advance their research in ways that would be very hard for them to do in their own labs."