World-class genomics laboratory to speed up drug discovery

A new, world-class, functional genomics laboratory is set to further the UK’s global genomics leadership and accelerate the discovery of new medicines and diagnostics.

The functional genomics laboratory has been established through a partnership between:

  • Medical Research Council (MRC)
  • AstraZeneca
  • Milner Therapeutics Institute (MTI), University of Cambridge

The laboratory will be a centre of excellence and national resource that combines the strengths and expertise of academia and industry.

Science Minister, Andrew Griffith said:

We want the UK to be at the forefront of accelerating the delivery of new life-changing medicines and diagnostics.

Thanks to this new partnership, the world-class laboratory will ensure that researchers have the right tools to unlock new insights into our genetics and develop new therapies and diagnostics. This is another example of the UK government’s commitment to supporting the £94bn life sciences sector with new research and development opportunities.

Discovering new insights

The state-of-the-art facility, which is expected to become operational in early 2024, will be located within the MTI on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus.

It will provide researchers from across the UK with access to large-scale biological and technological tools and house an advanced automated arrayed-CRISPR screening platform.

It is hoped that, through the use of tools, such as CRISPR gene editing, scientists will discover new insights into the relationship between genes, genetic variation and disease.

This may provide new opportunities to develop new therapies and diagnostics for chronic diseases including cardiovascular, respiratory and metabolic disease.

Life sciences vision

The laboratory will become part of the UK’s Human Functional Genomics Initiative.

This is a key commitment in the Life Sciences Vision to support world class research and innovation in functional genomics.

It will also contribute to the UK’s ambition of having the most advanced genomic healthcare system in the world.

Improving health, ageing and wellbeing

Dr Jonathan Pearce, Director of Strategy and Planning, MRC, said:

We are working across UK Research and Innovation to improve health, ageing and wellbeing.

Our investment in this new laboratory builds on the UK’s global leadership in genomics.

Our support will enable the laboratory’s launch and provide access for researchers from across the UK.

Through this investment, and the wider Human Functional Genomics Initiative, we will enhance the national ecosystem needed to improve our understanding of how genetic variance impacts health and disease.

Centre of excellence

Professor Tony Kouzarides, Director of MTI, said:

The best science is founded on collaboration, and I am delighted that the Milner Therapeutics Institute is partnering with the MRC and AstraZeneca to launch this unique functional genomics laboratory.

This will enable sharing of expertise and resources to deliver new diagnostics and treatments for people with chronic diseases.

Industry and academia working together

Professor Andy Neely, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise and Business Relations at the University of Cambridge, said:

This new collaboration with AstraZeneca and MRC is a fantastic example of industry and academia working together to drive forward science that will have a real impact on people’s health in the UK and around the world.

Sharon Barr, Executive Vice President, BioPharmaceuticals R&D, AstraZeneca, said:

Collaboration is crucial to achieving our ambition of transforming healthcare and delivering life-changing medicines for patients, and innovative partnership such as this one, allow us to share resources and expertise to advance science.

This new laboratory created as part of the Human Functional Genomics Initiative, will be world-leading and will play a central role in shaping future functional genomics work across the UK and beyond.

Top image:  Credit: YinYang, E+ via Getty Images

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