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Mar 27, 2014

GSK Joins Partners in Marrying Genomics with Big Data

  • GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is joining the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in launching a research collaboration intended to speed up drug discovery by integrating genomics with big data

    The new Centre for Therapeutic Target Validation (CTTV) reasons that it can improve target validation by better defining the role of a biological process in disease before developing a new drug to tackle it.

    GSK and its partners hope that, in turn, will boost the success rate for discovering new medicines for a wide range of human diseases. At present, according to CTTV, some 90% of compounds entering clinical trials never win approval and reach the market, after failing to show safety and efficacy.

    CTTV has named an interim head, Ewan Birney, Ph.D., associate director and senior scientist at EMBL-EBI. Dr. Birney will develop a work program intended to steer research activity for the center, for which up to 50 researchers from the founding organizations will work.

    CTTV will be based at the Wellcome Trust Genome Campus near Cambridge, UK. Researchers will use labs at Wellcome Trust Sanger as well as EMBL-EBI's Innovation and Translation suite, which received substantial support from the U.K. government in 2012.

    GSK has made a “multi-million pound” contribution to fund an initial wave of projects, CTTV said, adding that each partner will offer “significant contributions of resource, skills and platform technologies.”

    To that end, GSK will contribute expertise in disease biology, translational medicine and drug discovery. Scientists from Wellcome Trust Sanger will contribute knowledge in genetics in health and disease, while EMBL-EBI will offer provide bioinformatics-led insights on data and integrate multiple types of experimental data.

    CTTV has left open the possibility of additional partners: “Once the centre is fully established, the collaborators will actively seek to attract new interest from other companies and academic institutions in the centre with the aim of expanding its activities.”

    CTTV said it will seek publication of data and information from its projects in peer-reviewed scientific journals, and share its data openly with the broader scientific community “after basic quality control checks to ensure consistency with the data-sharing guidelines of both institutes.”

    The center’s open-science promise reflects GSK’s commitment under CEO Sir Andrew Witty to transparency through open access to clinical trial data. That has placed GSK at odds with most of its rivals, which have either opted for more limited-sharing efforts such as one announced last year by AstraZeneca and Roche, or resisted open-science altogether, citing competitive concerns.

    "By changing our business model, taking a more open-minded approach to sharing information and forging collaborations like the Centre for Therapeutic Target Validation, we believe there is an opportunity to accelerate the development of innovative new medicines,” Patrick Vallance, president of pharmaceuticals R&D at GSK, said in a statement. 



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