British multinational corporation GlaxoSmithKline, or GSK, announced its partnership with UC Berkeley and UCSF on June 13 to build a state-of-the-art laboratory for CRISPR research, a revolutionary genetic modification technology.
This partnership between GSK, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, UC Berkeley and UCSF will last for five years, according to the press release. Its goal is to learn more about genetics while creating future standard practices for the pharmaceutical industry.
“Technology is key to our innovation strategy at GSK, and CRISPR is one of the most important technologies of our time,” said Hal Barron, chief scientific officer and president of GSK, in the press release. “I am confident the lab will significantly advance our scientific understanding of the relationship between genes and disease to help find better medicines faster.”
According to the press release, the lab, which will be called the Laboratory for Genomic Research, or LGR, will be built near the UCSF Mission Bay campus in San Francisco and will be a novel example of industrial and academic researchers working both independently and collaboratively. GSK will provide up to $67 million in funding for LGR, including funds for facilities, 24 full-time UC employees and 14 full-time GSK employees.
LGR plans to automate current CRISPR methods and use artificial intelligence to find connections between gene variants and diseases, which will help select the most ideal patients for clinical trials, hastening drug development. According to the press release, a joint steering committee representing both UC and GSK will govern the collaboration. The committee will include Jennifer Doudna, campus professor of molecular and cell biology and chemistry and co-creator of CRISPR, as well as Jonathan Weissman, UCSF professor of cellular and molecular pharmacology, the press release said.
“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 the press release. “I think we’re going to be able to do science that none of us can even imagine today.”