We are delighted to welcome Dr Erica Bello as the new Head of Target Discovery at the Milner Therapeutics Institute. Erica brings to the team broad experience in CRISPR screening and advanced disease models, both from her work at the Wellcome Sanger Institute and more recently at Lightcast Discovery.
Erica’s appointment will be essential for expansion of the Target Discovery team’s collaborations and capabilities in the coming year, including the recently announced collaboration with the NC3Rs. The target discovery team focuses on 1) the characterisation and optimisation of complex cellular or patient-derived disease models, and 2) their application to identify clinically relevant, high confidence targets for disease therapy. The team combine academic discovery with industry rigour, defining end-goal criteria and building go/ no go decision making points into all projects. The group works in collaboration with academics and clinicians in Cambridge who have expertise in specific disease areas and have developed biologically relevant cell-based models. One example is a current collaboration with the Zilbauer lab (Wellcome MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute) for the profiling of human gut models for identification and validation of novel targets for IBD (Cell. Mol. Gastroenterol. & Hepatology 2022).
By considering how these models could be applied to drug discovery workflows, the team further refine the models and generate screening outputs to deliver a pipeline of novel targets. Many projects involve an exchange with the Computational Research team to interpret and interrogate datasets and integrate AI and machine learning methodology into their target discovery approach.
I am really excited to join the Milner Therapeutics Institute and to contribute to the research aimed at accelerating the discovery of new therapeutic targets. I have felt very welcome since I started, and I am looking forward to helping expand the capabilities of the Target Discovery team in gene editing and functional genomics.