Funding boost for GSK’s open innovation research into diseases affecting the developing world

Issued: Friday 3 May 2013, London UK

GlaxoSmithKline plc (GSK) today announced a funding injection of up to £5m from the Wellcome Trust to support its open approach to discovering and developing urgently needed new treatments for diseases of the developing world. 

The funding will move early-stage research to the next level, to find new medicines for diseases such as TB, malaria, Leishmaniasis and sleeping sickness. Scientists from around the world will work in collaboration with GSK drug discovery experts at its facility in Tres Cantos, Madrid – where GSK’s work researching diseases of the developing world is focused – with the overarching goal of developing two high-quality experimental drugs over the next five years.

GSK has been committed to an open approach to discovering new treatments for diseases of the developing world since 2010, when it created its Open Lab. Here, external researchers can work on their early stage research alongside GSK scientists at a dedicated facility at Tres Cantos, Madrid, benefiting from GSK facilities, resources and knowledge to help them advance their own research projects. Diseases of the developing world affect millions of people and yet R&D is struggling, due to the complexity of the science and low return on investment. To help address this, GSK’s Tres Cantos facility is intended to be an engine room of scientific innovation, stimulating more R&D into diseases that affect the world’s poorest people.   Based on the belief that transparency, openness and collaboration are key to igniting research in to these diseases, the Open Lab has, since its establishment, hosted 27 external researchers, who have worked alongside and been supported by GSK scientists on early-stage projects to identify compounds that are active against these diseases.

The £5m Wellcome Trust funding announced today will be used to take this open approach a significant step further, tackling the next phase of drug development with the aim of turning promising active compounds into high quality experimental drugs. The funding will provide the opportunity to progress the most promising projects underway by independent scientists at the Open Lab and from GSK’s own research portfolio. Innovative research that has come about using the GSK malaria and TB compound collections – which have been made freely available and publically accessible by GSK – also have the potential to benefit from the Wellcome Trust funding.

Dr Nick Cammack, Head of GSK’s Tres Cantos Medicines Development Campus, which houses the Open Lab  said: “This support highlights a growing recognition that collaborative and open research is the key to tackling these devastating diseases. Since adopting an open approach to discovering new medicines for developing world diseases, we’ve hosted some of the world’s brightest academic scientists at Tres Cantos. The fusion of their academic excellence with GSK expertise has yielded some really exciting research projects. This tremendous show of support from the Wellcome Trust means we now have the potential to start driving these projects further towards finding new medicines.”

Dr Richard Seabrook, Head of Business Development at the Wellcome Trust, said: “Academic researchers are making incredible progress in our understanding of neglected diseases yet we’ve still got a bottle neck when it comes to the development of new drugs. Taking a more collaborative approach, as GSK have through their open lab, will see these advances reap the full benefit of the industry’s commercial expertise to give us the best chance of securing new treatments for these devastating diseases.”

More about GSK’s Open Lab

The majority of the early-stage research collaborations currently ongoing at GSK’s Open Lab are funded by the Tres Cantos Open Lab Foundation – an independent charity established by GSK in 2010 with £5m seed funding. In 2012 GSK doubled this funding to a total of £10m and it is hoped that with this, and other donations, a sustainable flow of around 10 high quality early stage drug discovery projects will be maintained at the Open Lab in the coming years.

At present there are 12 active projects in the GSK Open Lab portfolio, investigating new treatments for diseases of the developing world including malaria and TB, as well as some of the more traditionally “neglected” diseases. For example, a researcher at NYU School of Medicine last year secured funding to carry out research in to new treatments for Chagas disease, using the Open Lab’s specialist screening facilities to identify specific compounds that inhibit the infection. The two medicines currently available to treat this disease are active only during the early stages of infection and have unpleasant side effects, so efforts such as this to identify longer lasting, more tolerable treatments are urgently needed.

Overseen by a board of leading scientists, the Tres Cantos Open Lab Foundation provides funding and support to researchers to help them develop and advance new ideas that could lead to new medicines to treat diseases of the developing world. Researchers supported by the Foundation are encouraged to share their work to ensure their discoveries are also accessible to other researchers. www.openlabfoundation.org

Broader open innovation

The establishment of the Open Lab at Tres Cantos and the Tres Cantos Open Lab Foundation are among a number of open innovation measures implemented by GSK in recent years. GSK is a founding member of WIPO Re:Search – a collaboration of private and public sector organizations, which aims to accelerate the development of new and better treatments for neglected tropical diseases. Further moves made by GSK to share its intellectual property include the publication of all of its compounds that have shown activity against malaria (in 2010) and TB (in 2013) – a technique that has been proven to stimulate research – and its involvement in the “TB Drug Accelerator”, which is another public / private partnership established with the specific aim of finding faster acting treatments for TB.

GlaxoSmithKline – one of the world’s leading research-based pharmaceutical and healthcare companies – is committed to improving the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer.  For further information please visit www.gsk.com

The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. It supports the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. The Trust’s breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. It is independent of both political and commercial interests. www.wellcome.ac.uk

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