Cutting edge genome editing toolbox for precision medicine

Associate Professor Ron Firestein

A cutting-edge CRISPR library containing more than 36,000 molecular scissors targeting every known gene in the human genome is realising the clinical potential of precision medicine research at Hudson Institute.

Hudson Institute scientists now have access to the award-winning Merck/Sanger Arrayed Whole Genome CRISPR Library on-site at the Monash Health Translation Precinct.

Associate Professor Ron Firestein, Head of Hudson Institute’s Centre for Cancer Research, says the CRISPR library places the entire human genome literally at scientists’ fingertips.

What is CRISPR?

Discovered by scientists in the US and Europe in 2012, CRISPR technology is a tool for editing the genome (an organism’s complete set of DNA, like an instruction manual for all of our genes).

It enables scientists to easily alter DNA sequences to uncover the role of specific genes in diseases – such as identifying mutations driving resistance to cancer treatment in patients.

“The library enables us to knockout individual genes or run customised screens where the expression of a combination of genes is inhibited. The flexibility offered by this library means we can efficiently identify promising drug targets for a wide range of human diseases,” A/Prof Firestein explains.

“This tool enables us to quickly narrow down hundreds of genes that may be causing disease to just one or two.

“It’s like a magnifying glass that allows us to find a needle (one gene or genetic mutation) in the haystack that is the entire human genome. This gives us a clearer picture of the role these genes are playing in diseases such as cancer, inflammation and heritable syndromes,” he says.

The library is made up of nearly 400 96-well plates where each well contains a plasmid encoding a guide RNA (molecular scissor) that blocks a specific gene. The library was developed by scientists at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, UK and is distributed in partnership with Sigma-Aldrich Corporation.

“Currently, we are able to create CRISPR reagents for a gene in the lab but this process is laborious and can take weeks. Now, with access to this unique CRISPR genome wide library at Hudson Institute, targeting any gene of interest is virtually at our fingertips.”

International collaborators

As part of this strategic partnership, Hudson Institute has also joined New York University, Stanford University, Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center and other top international academic institutions as a member of the Merck CRISPR Core Program. This program gives scientists priority access to new products, seminars and opportunities for international collaborations.

The Whole Genome Arrayed CRISPR Library is available to scientists at the Monash Health Translation Precinct (MHTP) including Monash Health, Monash University and Hudson Institute. If you are interested in using this resource, please contact Ron Firestein

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