A Flexible, Pooled CRISPR Library for Drug Development Screens

CRISPR J. 2020 Jun;3(3):211-222. doi: 10.1089/crispr.2019.0066.


Functional genomic screening with CRISPR has provided a powerful and precise new way to interrogate the phenotypic consequences of gene manipulation in high-throughput, unbiased analyses. However, some experimental paradigms prove especially challenging and require carefully and appropriately adapted screening approaches. In particular, negative selection (or sensitivity) screening, often the most experimentally desirable modality of screening, has remained a challenge in drug discovery. Here we assess whether our new, modular genome-wide pooled CRISPR library can improve negative selection CRISPR screening and add utility throughout the drug development pipeline. Our pooled library is split into three parts, allowing it to be scaled to accommodate the experimental challenges encountered during drug development, such as target identification using unlimited cell numbers compared with target identification studies for cell populations where cell numbers are limiting. To test our new library, we chose to look for drug-gene interactions using a well-described small molecule inhibitor targeting poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase 1 (PARP1), and in particular to identify genes which sensitise cells to this drug. We simulate hit identification and performance using each library partition and support these findings through orthogonal drug combination cell panel screening. We also compare our data with a recently published CRISPR sensitivity dataset obtained using the same PARP1 inhibitor. Overall, our data indicate that generating a comprehensive CRISPR knockout screening library where the number of guides can be scaled to suit the biological question being addressed allows a library to have multiple uses throughout the drug development pipeline, and that initial validation of hits can be achieved through high-throughput cell panels screens where clinical grade chemical or biological matter exist.

MeSH terms

  • CRISPR-Cas Systems*
  • Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Drug Development*
  • Gene Knockout Techniques
  • Gene Library*
  • HT29 Cells
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays
  • Humans
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • RNA, Guide, CRISPR-Cas Systems / genetics


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • PARPBP protein, human
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • RNA, Guide, CRISPR-Cas Systems