Big Pharma Drug Hunters Join Forces with Academic Researchers

GlaxoSmithKline has recently announced the winners of its first North American Discovery Fast Track competition. In a new kind of drug discovery partnership, the pharma giant offers entrants from Canada and the US an opportunity to transform their novel clinical research into medicine. Winners get the very best in pharmaceutical collaboration and expertise, including GSK’s screening platforms and access to their highly unique compound collections.

If advanced chemical screening is successful, the academic investigators could be offered a collaboration with GSK’s Discovery Partnerships with Academia (DPAc) who contribute to all aspects of testing and development, including pharmaceutical quality assurance. Criteria for assessing both the initial application and the ultimate winners include the strength of the therapeutic hypothesis, the originality of the concept, and its potential to meet current medical needs.

The Winners

The contest attracted 142 entries across 17 therapeutic areas from 70 universities, academic research institutions, clinics and hospitals in the US and Canada. Amongst the following list of 8 winners is Canadian, Richard Leduc, a professor of pharmacology at the University of Sherbrooke in Quebec:

  • Sarah Ades, Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University: A novel approach for an anti-microbial agent class of antibiotic for gram negative bacteria
  • Myles Akabas, M.D., Ph.D., Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University: A novel approach for new treatments for malaria
  • Lauren Brown, Ph.D., and Scott Schaus, Ph.D., Boston University and Jim McKerrow, M.D., Ph.D., University of California, San Francisco: A novel approach for new treatments for leishmaniasis
  • Rahul Kohli, M.D., Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania: A novel approach for the design of antibiotics to overcome clinical resistance
  • Richard Leduc, Ph.D., Université de Sherbrooke: A novel approach for new treatments for iron overload diseases
  • Deborah O’Brien, Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: A novel approach to regulation of male fertility
  • John Sondek, Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: A novel approach for new treatments for metastatic epithelial cancers
  • Harvard Medical School: Winner’s name and area of science will not be announced.

The winning projects showed innovative insight into a range of unmet medical needs, including antibiotics resistance, diseases of the developing world and certain cancer types.

According to Pearl Huang, Global Head of DPAc, “The quality of the entries, from some of the top research organizations in North America, was exceptional. We believe the winning projects represent groundbreaking research concepts that could help to bring transformative treatments to patients.” In addition to discovering new therapies, the contest provides inspiration to students currently enrolled in pharmaceutical courses who aspire to make their own groundbreaking contributions to medical science.

What is your view on this new collaboration between industry and academia?