Open Targets is an innovative, public-private partnership that uses human genetics and genomics data at large scale for systematic drug target identification and prioritisation.

We apply two general and interconnected approaches: 

  • Systematic, high throughput experimental projects in human, physiologically relevant systems to generate new data on the causal links between targets and diseases in our focus therapeutic areas
  • Integration of publicly available evidence that associates targets with disease in our informatics programme, exemplified by the Open Targets Platform and the Open Targets Genetics Portal


Open Targets brings together expertise from seven complementary institutions including the Wellcome Sanger Institute, EMBL-EBI, GSK, Biogen, Celgene, Sanofi and Takeda. We combine world-class scientific expertise of the Sanger Institute with scientific and translational input from industry to develop the Open Targets research programme.

Open Targers, partners together

The Open Targets Research Programme

We enable Sanger Scientists to work collaboratively with our industry partners to develop and execute ambitious projects with a focus on drug target identification and prioritisation. We encourage cutting-edge approaches that capitalise on new technologies and enable systematic approaches to yield target lists at large scale. We regularly issue calls for new project ideas but are always open to discussing new project ideas together.

In our Experimental programme we focus on three core therapy areas where the overlap of interest and expertise across our partners is strongest. We will consider excellent projects outside these therapy areas where there is sufficient interest from our partners.

In our Informatics programme we are interested in approaches to integrate, analyse and visualize data across all types of human disease to enable drug target identification and prioritisation.

Our core therapy areas

Inflammation & immunity

We are interested in the role of the immune system in disease and how it could be modulated to treat disease. Initial Open Targets projects probed the role of targets in well-defined immune cells through gene editing and epigenetic profiling (for instance in macrophages, dendritic cells, T cells and regulatory T cells in response to various stimulations). Newer projects are refining how we can interpret hits from GWAS by mapping eQTLs in cells and tissues relevant to immune disease and exploring the functional consequence of variants and gene perturbation in more complex models of disease. We have an interest in projects in immuno-oncology and exploring the role of the immune system in neurodegeneration in line with our other core therapy areas.


We are interested in the vulnerabilities of cancer and finding new targets to treat cancer directly or by harnessing the immune system. We work strategically with the Cancer Dependency Map and the resources and expertise within Sanger to work at the forefront of research to understand the genetic basis of cancer. We use a variety of accessible cancer resources to curate and analyse clinical genomic datasets to identify driver genes (mutations, amplification, deletions and gene-fusions) across multiple cancer sub-types. We use genomic and other ‘omic information to establish the disease relevance of the cancer cell lines, enable the selection of model systems that best reflect the biology of tumours and identify clinically relevant associations. In increasingly complex systems we are systematically perturbing the genome to reveal new targets and new target combinations.


We are interested in the causes of neurodegeneration across a range of diseases with important unmet need. We work with experts at Sanger and third parties such the UKDRI using approaches such as gene editing in neurons derived from iPS cells to identify modifiers of the responses to oxidative stress, mechanisms of Tau uptake and the effects of Alzheimer’s disease specific mutations. We are using fine mapping of GWAS in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease to identify and test potential targets in the same neuron systems. We also capitalise on the established expertise at the Sanger Institute to characterise these systems and their perturbations at the single-cell level using the latest in single-cell genomics technologies.

Find out more about us and our research at our Open Targets website. You can contact us at office@opentargets.org


We partner with groups at the Sanger Institute to deliver experimental and informatics projects as part of our research programme. Additionally, Sanger contributes to core Open Targets teams such as the Genetics Team and the Validation Lab.

Our flagship platforms are the Open Targets Platform and the Open Targets Genetics Portal.

Other resources that we have developed through our collaborative research include Project Score, epiChooseCRISPRcleanR, CELLector (Genomics Guided Selection of Cancer in vitro Models), LINK (LIterature coNcept Knowledgebase)  and DoRothEA (Discriminant Regulon Expression Analysis).

Further details of our publications to date and our research resources can be found on our website.

Details on our resources can be found on our website.

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