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CRISPR: kick-starting the revolution in drug discovery

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Gene editing using the CRISPR system has been established as the most powerful tool in the search for new drugs and is now being exploited for therapeutic purposes. Here, Pushpanathan Muthuirulan discusses the promises and wider opportunities of using CRISPR technology to open up the possibility of large-scale screening of drug targets. He also highlights the importance of implementing CRISPR technology into clinical practice for development of next-generation therapeutics and patient-tailored medicine.

THE DRUG discovery process, in which new drug candidates are discovered and evaluated for therapeutic use, has resulted in both promising and life-saving therapies for numerous diseases including inherited genetic disorders and pathogenic infections.1 However, the discovery and testing of a new drug candidate typically takes more than a decade and the total cost associated with drug discovery processes can exceed $1 billion.2 In the United States, the drug discovery process takes an average of 12 years and in excess of $1 billion to develop a new drug.3 Furthermore, only a few drug candidates actually make it to market; the chance of a new drug actually reaching market is only one in 5,000. The high cost and lengthy effort of getting new drugs to market make the drug development process a risky endeavour for pharmaceutical companies, which consequently hinders discovery and development of new therapies. The recent emergence of genome editing technologies and advances in our understanding of human genome sequences have raised hope that direct manipulation of the genome could potentially revolutionise the process of drug discovery and therapeutics.4 In particular, new technologies like CRISPR-Cas9 are key to unlocking potential drug targets and could have a profound impact on modern drug discovery and development.1,5











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