‘Public-private’ deal heralds revolution in search for new drug treatments

GlaxoSmithKline and non-profit institutes hope to fast-track research into cures using patient DNA

Science Editor

Britain’s biggest drug company has signed a pioneering deal with two public research institutes to develop new medicines based on patient DNA in the hope of discovering lucrative treatments for a range of illnesses with a genetic basis, from cancer to heart disease.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has promised to publicly release any early research findings for free in return for the expertise and help offered by the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, where the human genome was decoded, and the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI), both based on the same campus in Cambridge.

The aim of the unique collaboration is to identify potential targets in the body for new drugs based on an analysis of the huge volumes of data generated by the human genome and similar studies into complex biological molecules such as proteins and peptides.

In return for its investment, GSK hopes to steal a march on its competitors by identifying targets early enough for it to develop drugs that have less risk of failure at the early stages of clinical trials, said Ewan Birney, associate director of the EBI and the interim head of the new Centre for Therapeutic Target Validation.

“This is about enlightened self-interest. They are funding public research to do the groundwork in the earliest stage of drug discovery. They really want to change the game for this early part of the drug-discovery process,” Dr Birney said.

“They are backing themselves that they can do the next phase and find the right drug that works better than anyone else. They realised that some things are better solved in the public domain,” he said.

One of the preconditions of the collaboration is that the research findings will be freely available, but GSK can direct the research towards areas where the company already has a commercial interest, Dr Birney said.

It is estimated that about nine out of 10 potential new drugs fail when they enter clinical trials even though they have shown promise in the laboratory and in animal trials. 

Another problem is that even many licensed drugs do not work on all potential patients - some people do not respond because of their genetic makeup. It is one of the best-kept secrets of the pharmaceuticals industry that most of the drugs it makes do not work on most of the patients they are designed for.

“We are interested in knowing the proteins to target for drugs. In the case of responders and non-responders, were interested really in the new proteins in the non-responders which look like the right ones to target,” Dr Birney said.

The Sanger Institute is a world leader in decoding and analysing genome data while the EBI’s area of expertise is handling the huge volume of data generated by genome science, as well as new research in proteomics (proteins science), biochemistry and the biological basis of disease.

The centre will be built on the same site in Cambridge where the Sanger Institute is based and will initially employ about 50 researchers.

Patrick Vallance, president of pharmaceuticals research and development at GSK, said that by changing its business model and sharing information in a collaborative way, the company hopes to accelerate the development of new medicines.

“Target validation is one of the greatest challenges in drug discovery. We need to understand better the mechanisms in our body related to disease to improve how we can develop the most effective mechanisms,” Dr Vallance said.

Professor Sir Mike Stratton, director of the Sanger Institute, said: “Advances in genomics have led to a rapid increase in the availability of drug targets, providing enormous opportunity but also posing the problem of how we best convert this knowledge into medicines.

“The challenge we now address it to identify those new targets with the greatest relevance to human disease which, in turn, will undoubtedly increase the speed and efficiency in which new medicines can be developed.”

Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London