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February 14th, 2014
Dear CDF colleagues and friends,
I just wanted to share with you my recent visit to Tres Cantos – GSK as you may find here opportunities for collaboration. Click in the links if you want to get more details.
Tres Cantos - GSK is located in the north of Madrid, Spain in a science park 30 min from Barajas airport. I visited the drug discovery facilities and met with the Diseases of the Developing World (DDW) team and visiting scientists who are been supported by GSK. For drug discovery, the following activities take place at Tres Cantos: synthesis and optimization of small molecules, ultra high-throughput screening, and analyses of properties and toxicity in in vitro and in vivo models of potential compounds. The DDW team is focused in malaria, tuberculosis and kinetoplastids (visceral leishmaniasis and trypanosomiases).
One of my main interests in visiting Tres Cantos was to know more about the GSK open innovation model that has been implemented here since 2010. Open innovation in the pharmaceutical industry implies that research and development (R&D) is done by means of collaborations with small biotechnology companies, other companies and academia and there are many ways to do this. [1, 2] GSK established the Tres Cantos Open Lab Foundation which provides a web link by which researchers can submit, at any time, a proposal for drug discovery (small molecule, target or model) in malaria, tuberculosis or kinetoplastids. GSK provides facilities, mentorship and the Tres Cantos Open Lab Foundation provides funding of salary and accommodation for the researcher, operational and travel costs. The submitted proposals are assigned to a “sponsor” from the Open Lab who may contact the researcher to discuss the opportunities and assess initial fit against the selection criteria. Then, proposals are reviewed by a Governing Board and if selected funded for typically 1 year. The intellectual property of the work conducted at the Open Lab is covered under the WIPO Re:Search Consortium principles which is a sharing mechanism in relation to research and development, manufacture and/or sale of products for neglected tropical diseases (NTD), malaria and tuberculosis in developing countries.
It is still early days to assess the results of this open innovation model but I think that one important “product” is the training of researchers that are from the countries where these diseases are endemic which is difficult to measure but relevant to increasing human capital in our countries. However, the participation of scientist from countries where NTD, malaria and tuberculosis are endemic is still very small (only 4 of 35 funded projects). Perhaps, we the fellow’s community and researchers could help to increase this indicator by publicizing the Open Lab in our countries as one of many alternatives to interact with pharma.
In addition to the Open Lab proposals, there are other ways by which Tres Cantos GSK R&D interacts with academia such as postdoctoral opportunities (current call ends 2nd July 2014), Predict TB for the development of drug combinations against tuberculosis, and Tres Cantos Anti-Malarial Set (TCAMS). TCAMS provides open access to a dataset of more than 13,500 compounds with in vitro activity against P. falciparum  and there is a separate dataset for tuberculosis (dataset No.9). To request a sample of the compounds listed in TCAMS all one needs to do is email Lluis Ballell or Elena Fernandez Alvaro describing in one paragraph the work plan intended together with a short rational for performing the studies. After this initial request and after an initial check to avoid duplication of work, a confidential disclosure agreement (CDA) is put in place for signature and transfer of compounds. At present only small quantities (µL) of material are exchanged. GSK’s and other companies’ compounds shown to have activity against P. falciparum can also be requested from the open access Malaria Box from Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV). Finally, there is also inter-pharma collaborations where compounds of other pharma companies are assessed in models already established at Tres Cantos - GSK.
This open innovation model for drug discovery made me think about models of open innovation in clinical development… But, I am sure you have also come across open innovation in R&D in your current or past placements. I will be excited to know more about these open innovation R&D strategies from your experiences.
Lyda Osorio MD PhD
Placement at GSK-Pharma London until May 2014
1. Melese T, Lin SM, Chang JL, Cohen NH: Open innovation networks between academia and industry: an imperative for breakthrough therapies. Nat Med 2009, 15:502-507.
2. Schuhmacher A, Germann PG, Trill H, Gassmann O: Models for open innovation in the pharmaceutical industry. Drug Discov Today 2013, 18:1133-1137.
3. Butler D: GlaxoSmithKline goes public with malaria data. In Nature. http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100120/full/news.2010.20.html; 2010.