New, sophisticated, and in some cases expensive technologies are required to be at the cutting edge of biomedical research. La Jolla Institute has invested heavily in new technologies to catalyze breakthroughs by our exceptionally talented research staff. One example is the Functional Genomics Center at LJI, which resulted from a highly competitive federal granting process aimed at re-invigorating the local research community.
Launched in 2011 with funding from the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, the Functional Genomics Center was founded to combine large-scale automation and high-throughput capabilities with gene disruption techniques to pinpoint the function of individual genes and find new ways to disrupt genetic triggers of disease.
RNA interference and CRISPR/Cas9
RNA—the chemical cousin of the DNA in our genes—was long thought of as merely a messenger, but scientists now recognize that RNA plays a powerful role in controlling gene activity. Originally discovered in the petunia plant, RNA interference quickly became a powerful laboratory tool for shutting down individual genes to discover their function. Similarly, CRISPR/Cas9 is another powerful RNA-based technology that allows scientists to manipulate gene expression by directly altering DNA. Researchers are also exploring how to use RNAi and CRISPR as therapeutic tools to inactivate specific genes that are at the heart of many diseases.
The Functional Genomics Center at the La Jolla Institute is one of only a handful of comprehensive functional genomics labs around the nation funded by the National Institutes of Health, and houses one of the world’s largest collections of RNAi and CRISPR/Cas9 reagents. These valuable resources, combined with state-of-the-art instruments and the expertise of LJI staff, allows biomedical researchers to survey the human genome with unprecedented speed and precision.
The sequencing of the human genome in the 1990s marked a revolution in the field of human biology. Today we’re in the midst of another revolution. Human genomics is transforming the way researchers study how individual genes function within a finely tuned network of waxing and waning gene activity. Armed with that knowledge we will be able to individualize prevention, diagnosis and treatment and thus improve human health.
The Center at LJI is not only focused on finding new treatments for immune-related diseases, but it provides a prestigious addition to San Diego’s research community that is open to researchers on the Torrey Pines mesa and elsewhere.