GSK names winners of 2014 Discovery Fast Track Challenge

  • 14 proposals selected from 428 entries in 26 countries
  • Project areas include HIV, cancer and neurodegeneration

GSK has announced the winners of its second Discovery Fast Track Challenge - a programme designed to combine the expertise of academic researchers with that of drug discovery scientists at GSK, to accelerate the search for new medicines.

Fourteen winning proposals were selected from 428 entries across North America and Europe. These proposals covered a wide range of approaches and disease areas, from searching for new antibiotics or antivirals, to discovering new treatments for cardiovascular and kidney diseases.

The winning scientists will work with GSK’s Discovery Partnerships with Academia (DPAc) and Molecular Discovery Research teams to test their hypotheses on targets and disease pathways against GSK’s extensive library of compounds.

If a compound is identified during this process that shows activity against these pathways or targets, the winning investigators could be offered a formal partnership with GSK, to refine these molecules and work together on the development of a potential new medicine.

Duncan Holmes, European Head of DPAc, said:  “We believe there is a real advantage in bringing together the best in academia and industry to help take innovative ideas forward in drug discovery. The Discovery Fast Track Challenge is designed to find the best ideas for collaborative drug discovery from any therapeutic area, in any geography. We look forward to working with each of the winners to help identify novel quality pharmacologically active compounds for their targets and being part of the researcher’s journey in making a difference."

The winning investigators, by region, are:

United States/Canada

  • Dr John Burnett Jr, Mayo Clinic, and Dr. Siobhan Malany, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute: Discovery of anti-hypertensive agents
  • Prof Maureen Murphy, The Wistar Institute, Prof. Donna George and Prof. Julia Leu, The Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania: Cancer therapy
  • Prof Stefan Strack, University of Iowa: Targeting mitochondrial fragmentation for neuroprotection
  • Prof Vanessa Sperandio, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center:  Targeting bacterial infections
  • Prof Tania Watts, University of Toronto: Treatment of B-cell lymphomas


  • Prof Morris Brown, University of Cambridge (UK): Primary hyperaldosteronism
  • Dr Federica Briani, Università degli Studi di Milano (Italy): Targeting bacterial infections
  • Dr Christos Chatziantoniou, National Institute of Health and Medical Research (France): Chronic kidney disease
  • Prof Giulio Superti-Furga and Dr. Kilian Huber, CeMM (Austria): Cancer therapy
  • Prof Steve Jackson and Dr. Delphine Larrieu, University of Cambridge (UK): Treatment of inherited laminopathies
  • Prof Andrew Lever, University of Cambridge (UK): Targeting HIV infection
  • Prof Michael Marber, King’s College London (UK): Ischaemic heart disease
  • Dr Geerten van Nieuw Amerongen, VU University Medical Center (The Netherlands): Treatment of vascular leakage and edema
  • Dr Simon Wagner, University of Leicester (UK): Cancer therapy

Work on many of the winning Discovery Fast Track projects has already started and GSK expects the first compound screens to be completed by mid-2015.

About Discovery Fast Track Challenge

The Discovery Fast Track Challenge is designed to translate academic research into starting points for new potential medicines. The academic researcher provides a novel drug discovery concept that may include assay protocols and reagents. GSK provides a team of scientists to collaborate with the academic and applies its state-of-the-art capabilities to scale up, industrialise assays and analyse data. The target is screened against GSK compound collections and enabled to find novel quality pharmacologically active compounds. For Discovery Fast Track projects that both the academic partner and GSK wish to continue, both parties can enter into a DPAc agreement. The 2014 Challenge, expanded to include Europe in addition to North America, attracted 428 entries across a broad range of therapeutic areas from 234 universities, academic research institutions, and hospitals in 26 countries.

About Discovery Partnerships with Academia (DPAc)

Launched by GSK in the UK in late 2010, DPAc is a new approach to drug discovery where academic partners become core members of drug discovery teams. GSK and the academic partner share the challenges and reward of innovation where GSK funds activities in the partner laboratories, as well as provides in-kind resources, to progress a programme from idea to candidate medicine.

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Cautionary statement regarding forward-looking statements
GSK cautions investors that any forward-looking statements or projections made by GSK, including those made in this announcement, are subject to risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results to differ materially from those projected. Such factors include, but are not limited to, those described under Item 3.D 'Risk factors' in the company's Annual Report on Form 20-F for 2013.