At GSK we are committed to researching new treatments for diseases that affect millions of people in the world’s developing nations. We have a heritage and expertise in researching and developing new medicines and vaccines, and we are directing our scientific resources into this important area.
Our specialist research centre at Tres Cantos in Spain concentrates on global health priorities like malaria and TB. We work closely in public-private partnerships, with groups including the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) and the Global Alliance for TB drug Development (TB Alliance).
Open Lab at Tres Cantos
In 2010, we stated our intention to ‘open up’ the Tres Cantos campus to allow GSK researchers to work more collaboratively with scientists from universities, not-for-profit partnerships and other research institutes.
In May 2010, the first success in opening up access to our compounds was realised, with the publication of over 13,500 promising potential ‘hits’ in the journal Nature to stimulate drug discovery research for malaria. The chemical structures and associated assay data of these compounds are now stored on leading public scientific websites:
This open approach has seen us share our anti-malarial data with 14 research institutions around the world, resulting in a number of new research projects. A pre-requisite for granting access to the data is that the researchers agree to put their findings in to the public domain, thus encouraging further collaborative research by the scientific community on this challenging disease.
The group Medicines for Malaria Ventures (MMV), which partly funded our initial malaria screening, has also been instrumental in coordinating this open source approach. MMV have created a ‘malaria box set’ made up of the compounds donated by us, and other research groups including St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital and Novartis. The malaria box has been sent to more than 100 groups around the world.
Several labs are also involved in an exciting new open source drug discovery project for malaria - the first of its kind - using a new idea called ‘Open Notebook Science’. This involves publishing the notebook of the researcher online, along with all the raw and processed data and any associated material, as it is recorded. Led by the Todd lab at the University of Sydney with MMV and GSK’s Tres Cantos facility, this new practice hopes to speed up the collaboration process.
In October 2012 we announced we were adopting the same open approach to TB research, by putting around 200 TB “hits” into the public domain. In the same way that we previously opened up access to our malaria data, we will make these TB data freely available to the public online and will also seek publication of this information in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. We hope the release of these data will encourage a fully open approach to TB research, which we believe is the key to accelerating the development of new medicines to treat this disease.
Tres Cantos Open Lab Foundation
To support visiting scientists and their research projects, we set up a not-for-profit group, the Tres Cantos Open Lab Foundation, with an initial investment of £5 million, which we doubled in 2012 to a total of £10 million.
Since the ‘Open Lab’ was established two years ago, 21 scientists from world-class institutions have come to work on 14 projects in the Open Lab, and eight further projects have been approved. One of the completed projects was conducted by iThemba, a company supported by the South African Government, which worked on a project at the ‘Open Lab’ to identify potential new compounds against tuberculosis (TB), specifically multidrug, extremely drug-resistant TB and co-infection with HIV-AIDS. There are further projects underway at Tres Cantos looking at TB, malaria, Chagas disease, leishmaniasis and sleeping sickness.
The Open Lab’s vision is to have around ten projects at Tres Cantos at any given time. The majority of these will be funded by the Tres Cantos Open Lab Foundation.
By opening the centre to more alliances, and by continuing to drive our “open innovation” agenda, we aim to provide a critical mass of knowledge around neglected diseases. We hope this knowledge will lead to the discovery and development of desperately-needed new medicines, creating a truly world-leading facility in collaborative research.