RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – A new facility at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will enable researchers to screen for new drug targets using CRISPR, the powerful genome-editing technology that is accelerating discovery and development across the life sciences.

The CRISPR Genetic & Epigenetic Screening Center (CGESC) will open its doors at UNC on Oct. 1 and will be available primarily to UNC scientists but also to researchers from other universities and bioscience companies.

Closeup of Biomek equipment
New Biomek equipment at CGESC. — UNC photos

“I am thrilled to bring a modern genetic and epigenetic screening facility to UNC’s laboratories,” said CRISPR Facility Director Nate Hathaway, associate professor in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. “The CGESC will enable many future discoveries and fill UNC’s drug discovery teams with new project pipelines. With CRISPR, we have the ability to continue to help patients struggling with the world’s most challenging health issues.”

The CGESC, located on the second floor of the Genetic Medicine Building, will offer both arrayed screens and pooled whole-genome screens. Both services will include screen design, experimental work and detailed analysis.

The CGESC is accepting proposals for screens through its website at Interested researchers may also reach out by email to discuss their projects at

The new facility was made possible by a cross-campus collaboration involving the Eshelman Institute for Innovation, the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Eshelman School of Pharmacy, the School of Medicine, and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research.

In addition, the North Carolina Biotechnology Center provided a $150,000 Innovation Impact Grant to help purchase key equipment for the facility. The grant program supports the purchase of core facility research equipment that is likely to have impact at a university and beyond.

Biomek i7 screening equipment
Biomek i7 screening equipment had NCBiotech grant support.

“NCBiotech is pleased to be a part of this institutional initiative at UNC,” said Susan Lankford, Ph.D., the Biotech Center’s director of science and technology development. “Access to cutting-edge research equipment is absolutely essential for the advancement of science and innovation. We expect this award to have lasting and far-reaching impact for UNC and for the advancement of CRISPR technology among scientists throughout North Carolina.”

CRISPR burst onto the scene in 2012, offering a precise, efficient and affordable way for scientists to edit DNA sequences and alter gene function in single cells and whole organisms. It uses enzymes as molecular scissors to cut strands of DNA in specific places within a genome.

Since then, the technology has been named as a “Breakthrough of the Year” by Science and found broad commercial applications in medicine, agriculture and other industries.

In addition to making edits to the genome – the entire genetic makeup of a cell or organism – the technology is now being used to edit the epigenome, the set of chemical alterations to a cell’s DNA and related proteins that affect gene expression.