SCI Innovation Awardee

October 2023

Steven Corsello, MD, assistant professor of medicine (oncology), was awarded a $50,000 SCI Innovation Award for his proposal “Degron-controlled base editors for massively scalable gene variant screens.” Corsello is a physician-scientist and medical oncologist who works at the intersection of functional genomics and chemical biology to identify mechanisms of cancer inhibition to translate these findings into clinical use.

Tumor cells can harbor multiple genetic mutations. These mutations promote tumor growth using different mechanisms, for example, by altering the function of cellular proteins or by causing drug resistance. Understanding these mechanisms could improve our ability to design drugs to prevent tumor growth. However, the number of proteins and mutations associated with cancer is vast, and the challenge is how to survey them on a large scale. Corsello plans to develop a method to do just that with the support of the SCI Innovation Award. The idea is to use a gene-editing technology based on CRISPR to systematically introduce mutations across the coding sequence of genes and then determine the functional impact of the mutations. Specifically, to pilot this approach, Corsello will focus on the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) protein that is activated in lung cancer. His goal is to identify EGFR mutations that promote either sensitivity or resistance to drugs. The results will provide information that will help design more effective drugs. Moreover, the technology will be applicable to many other proteins with the potential to develop new therapeutic approaches across many different types of cancers.