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European Biopharmaceutical Review

The New Renaissance in Functional Genomics Screening

Our understanding of the role genetics plays in human disease has advanced tremendously over the past decade. Much of the credit for this advancement can be attributed to the introduction of new research technologies, and, in particular, the expansion of functional genomics screening approaches. Modern screening approaches enable unprecedented insights into the cellular mechanisms that belie a vast array of biological processes from disease formation to abnormal cell growth. In fact, it would not be hyperbole to suggest that current functional genomics methodologies have the potential to reveal the underlying biological networks for just about any phenotype.

At the forefront of this functional genomics revolution are genome editing-based screening tools. Genome editing tools, most prominently represented by the clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) system, were developed to generate targeted edits within the genome of living cells. CRISPR operates by inducing double-strand breaks (DSBs) in a sequence-specific manner. These DSBs are then repaired via the cells’ endogenous machinery, specifically non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) or homology-directed repair (HDR), resulting in targeted genome alterations and downstream changes in the functionality of the targeted genes.

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Dr Benjamin Borgo currently leads a team of forward-thinking product and service managers within Merck’s Genome Engineering and Modulation franchise. His first exposure to CRISPR-based genome editing was as a graduate student, where he attempted to engineer novel protein variants. Though he met little success, it inspired a passion for CRISPR technology, which he has brought with him to his current role within a company that is laser-focused on developing and utilising revolutionary genome editing technologies. Prior to joining Merck, he worked in various commercial and technical roles at Berkeley Light Inc., Agilent Technologies, Nanopore Diagnostics, and several small start-up companies focused on software applications. Ben has a PhD in Computational Biology from Washington University in St. Louis, US.
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Benjamin Borgo
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