GSK backs up genomics refocus with UCB partnership

By Ben Hargreaves

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: Getty/Rost-9D)
(Image: Getty/Rost-9D)

Related tags Gsk Ucb Genomics 23andMe machine learning Artificial intelligence

GSK signs partnership deal with the University of California to advance genomic research, which sees the creation of a lab and funding for five years of research.

Last year, GSK announced a $300m (€266m) deal with 23andMe​, a DNA genetic testing and analysis company, to leverage the genetic data stored as part of the latter’s services to discover potential therapies.

Today, GSK revealed it would be diving deeper into the space by setting up the Laboratory for Genomics Research (LGR), alongside the University of California Berkeley (UCB).

The LGR will receive $67m in funding over a five-year period, which will house 24 full-time university staff members and up to 14 full-time GSK employees.

The partnership will explore how gene mutations cause disease and to develop new technologies using CRISPR to develop new therapeutics.

Further than this, the aim is to automate CRISPR processes to scale up the technology and developing a broader understanding of genomics.

It will be based in San Francisco, with the in-house research team working in collaboration with GSK’s AI and machine learning group to utilise the data generated.

Lead researchers will include Jennifer Doudna, a co-inventor of CRISPR technology, alongside Jonathan Weissman, who specialises in CRISPR screening technology, and Hal Barron, CSO of GSK.

Doudna said: “Over the last seven years, CRISPR has transformed academic research, but until the LGR, we haven’t had a focused effort to catalyse the kind of research we know will lead to new innovation using this CRISPR tool.”

“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,”​ she continued.

Heading up its initiative in genomics will be GSK’s newly appointed head of functional genomics, Chris Miller, who joined the company from AbbVie in April of this year.

The move by GSK to invest into the gene therapy space represents a shift in strategy, which had, at one time, looked to be pulling away from the area when it sold its gene therapy portfolio to Orchard Therapeutics​.

Under Emma Walmsley’s leadership, GSK has also switched strategy in regard to oncology​, as well as placing a stronger focus on the potential of digital technologies​ to transform the business.

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