A revolution is under way in functional genomics which is spearheaded by the CRISPR-Cas9 system and its application to pooled genetic screening. Remarkable new tools, made possible by dCas9, are coming to fruition that will allow for a new kind of interrogation of gene function, allowing us to ask more sophisticated questions about the biology of drug targets.
January 2013 was marked by a major breakthrough in genome engineering. Four labs simultaneously engineered the bacterial and archaeal CRISPR-Cas9 system to induce precise cleavage at mammalian genomic loci1–4. Within a year’s time, two back-to-back papers documented the application of CRISPR-Cas9 knockout technology to forward genetic screening5,6. These studies showed not just proof of concept of a new technology, but a spectacular jump in what is possible within functional genomics. Many studies have since capitalised on these discoveries and several publications, including from Horizon7, have demonstrated screening platforms with even greater precision and performance.