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Unravelling the mysteries of the human genome with functional genomics

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13 June 2019

Radu Rapiteanu

Explore how our collaboration with the University of California to establish a new Laboratory for Genomics Research (LGR) will help accelerate the development of next generation functional genomics technologies and build on the databases we have available from human genetics, including our 23andMe collaboration.

Functional genomics: getting us on target to fight disease 

With the recent explosion of information from human genetics, scientists need powerful tools to understand why these small changes in a person’s genetic make-up can increase the risk of diseases. This is the area of science called functional genomics.


Functional genomics investigates how a gene in the genome works, for example by understanding where it is translated into a proteinFunctional genomics allows us to do this genome-wide, so scientists can ask multiple questions in one experiment by knocking out, turning on or changing multiple genes 

The most powerful tool in functional genomics, CRISPR, allows this to be done at a scale, which was once thought impossible, because it is easily programmable. Tools like CRISPR help scientists further understand the function of genetic variants, pointing the way to novel therapies. We know that genetically validated targets are twice as likely to succeed during clinical evaluation [1].

Accelerating functional genomics: the Laboratory for Genomics Research

We want to automate and scale existing CRISPR technologies – that’s why we recently announced our collaboration with the University of California to establish a new Laboratory for Genomics Research (LGR).

Technology is key to our innovation strategy at GSK and CRISPR is one of the most important technologies of our time.

Dr Hal Barron, Chief Scientific Officer and President, R&D

The LGR unites the scientific and technology know-how of GSK with the world-class genomics expertise of Professors Jennifer Doudna (a co-inventor of CRISPR technology) and Jonathan Weissman (a pioneer of CRISPR screening technology), both Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators. 

This collaboration has the potential to improve our approach to drug development and how we deliver new medicines to patients.

[1] Nelson et al (2015) The support of human genetic evidence for approved drug indications

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