RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – GlaxoSmithKline says it will invest $67 million in funding, facilities and staff in a new genomics lab at the University of California.

The focus will be on gene editing technology known as CRISPR.

“The new laboratory will explore how gene mutations cause disease and develop new technologies using CRISPR to rapidly accelerate the discovery of new medicines,” the drug giant said Thursday.

Known as the Laboratory for Genomics Research (LGR), the five-year program will receive support from up to 14 full-time GSK employees. The facilities will have a capacity for 24 university workers as well.

A good deal of CRISPR research is also being conducted in the Triangle.

Among those leading the GSK effort will be Jennifer Doudna, who is a co-inventor of the CRISPR gene-editing technology.

“Over the last seven years, CRISPR has transformed academic research, but until the LGR, we haven’t had a focused effort to catalyze the kind of research we know will lead to new innovation using this CRISPR tool,” Doudna said in a statement. “LGR is about building that space where creative science is partnered with the development of robust technology that will help develop tomorrow’s drugs. I think we’re going to be able to do science that none of us can even imagine today.”

Study: Gene-edited babies through CRISPR may be at increased risk of early death

“Technology is key to our innovation strategy at GSK, and CRISPR is one of the most important technologies of our time,” said Dr Hal Barron, Chief Scientific Officer and President of research and development at GSK. With the expertise of Jennifer and Jonathan helping to steer the LGR, I am confident the lab will significantly advance our scientific understanding of the relationship between genes and disease to help find better medicines faster.”

Not all news around CRISPR has been positive, however, such as reaction to reports that a Chinese scientist claimed to use gene editing in babies.

GSK already works with the gene testing firm 23andMe.

The drug giant has a major R&D presence in RTP and operates a manufacturing plant in Zebulon.

More CRISPR headlines from WRAL TechWire

Inside the potential $818M Locus Biosciences deal + a CRISPR primer, video

Duke engineers improve CRISPR genome editing with biomedical tails

NCSU ‘CRISPR’ pioneer to spell out gene editing for public