Almac Discovery Publishes Ground-breaking Cancer Research

May 18, 2021

Analysis uncovers vulnerabilities across the human genome, opening the door to new cancer treatments

Belfast, N.I., 18 May 2021Almac Discovery, the independent research driven drug discovery company dedicated to the development of novel and innovative therapeutics, is delighted to share ground-breaking new research which has identified nearly thousands of gene pairs that represent ‘Achilles Heels’ or cancer vulnerabilities in analysis of more than 700 different cancer models. In the future, this could lead to new ways to stop cancer cells in their tracks by using existing drugs, as well as proposing new targets for drug development. These drugs could even be used to combat cancers that do not respond to the current standard treatments.

The research was led by Mark Wappett, Head of Bioinformatics at Almac Discovery and Honorary Lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast, in collaboration with the Overton and McDade groups in the Patrick G Johnston Centre for Cancer Research (PGJCCR) at Queen’s University Belfast and the Department of Biochemistry at Vanderbilt University, USA.

Pivotal to the research is a completely new computational method for discovering cancer synthetic lethality from clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) and gene expression data using a website called ‘SynLeGG’.  This site analyses large and complex datasets to identify changes in genes that occur in certain cancers that may make them more addicted to other similar genes and therefore susceptible to treatments targeting these partners. It was published today (17 May) in the journal Nucleic Acids Research and can be accessed here.

Study lead Mark Wappett, Almac Discovery, commented “Synthetic Lethality with Genetics and Genomics, or SynLeGG for short, provides the wider scientific community access to key datasets generated by cutting edge molecular biology technologies, such as CRISPR, and a toolkit with which to analyse this data.  Ultimately we hope that by increasing the reach of this data we can expedite more targeted and effective cancer treatments.”

Dr Ian Overton, Senior Lecturer at the PGJCCR explains: “Understanding the molecular fingerprints of cancer can pinpoint ways to target drugs precisely to those patients where they will be most effective. Our work makes a step towards more effective and personalised cancer treatments, ultimately saving lives.

We make our results available on the SynLeGG web server, opening a window to share these rich resources with researchers across the scientific community – in order to accelerate progress in cancer research.”

Dr Simon McDade, Senior Lecturer from the PGJCCR said: “We anticipate that this resource will seed detailed investigation of a number of specific vulnerabilities we have identified, ultimately identifying novel treatment strategies that will translate into significant benefits for cancer patients in the long term.”

The results of MultiSEp are available at    



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