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Horizon Discovery extends CRISPR screening to primary human T cells


By Paul Brackley


Horizon Discovery has introduced a new CRISPR screening service for use on primary human T cells, which will be valuable in researching biological processes and developing new drugs.

Terry Pizzie, CEO of Horizon Discovery in Waterbeach. Picture: Keith Heppell
Terry Pizzie, CEO of Horizon Discovery in Waterbeach. Picture: Keith Heppell

The Waterbeach-based gene editing and gene modulation company says it represents a “breakthrough format” for its immuno-oncology clients.

CRISPR is a highly valuable gene-editing tool that enables researchers to study the effect of individual genes by turning them on or off, amplifying them or repressing them. Specific DNA sequences can be removed, replaced or added to using the technology, which helps pharmaceutical companies explore the impact of drug candidates.

There is great interest in exploring the role of human T lymphocytes - or T cells - which form part of our immune system.

But until now CRISPR screens in primary T lymphocytes has proved particularly challenging, due to complex issues relating to the introduction of the screening components required, particularly the reaction to introducing the Cas9 enzyme.

Horizon, however, has managed to adapt its CRISPRko (knockout) platform to address the issues and is promising a “robust screen platform” for T lymphocytes in the lab.

CRISPR screening is now widely used in drug discovery
CRISPR screening is now widely used in drug discovery

Terry Pizzie, CEO of Horizon Discovery Group, said: “The successful demonstration of primary human T cells in Horizon’s CRISPR screening platforms is a breakthrough format for our clients working in the immuno-oncology space; enabling them to find gene targets and potential therapeutic avenues in an immediately biologically relevant setting rather than having to work through surrogate cell lines.

“We expect that this approach will allow our customers to save considerable time and resources in downstream validation, helping them to get therapeutics to the clinic faster.”

Mr Pizzie told the Cambridge Independent last July that he sees CRISPR screening as a major growth area for the company, which is a world leader in using the technology.

The company also offers CRISPRi (interference) and CRISPRa (activation) screening formats in cancer cell lines.

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