The new public-private Centre for Therapeutic Target
Validation (CTTV) is being created by GSK working alongside the
Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the European Bioinformatics
Institute, both of which are based in Cambridge, England.
The three founders said on Thursday they hoped to attract interest
from other companies and academic institutions over time.
"I fully expect others to join," Patrick Vallance, GSK's head of
pharmaceuticals research and development, told Reuters. "But it
seemed sensible to get started right away rather than spend two or
three years trying to get lots of other people involved."
Rapid advances in genome sequencing have led to almost daily
advances in understanding how genetics can affect disease
progression, creating a bewildering array of options for developers
of new drugs.
As a result, there is a growing trend among pharmaceutical companies
to become more open about sharing early-stage — or pre-competitive — research work, rather than keeping their science locked up behind
Ewan Birney, the interim head of the CTTV, said the pre-competitive
nature of the new centre was "critical" to its success.
The hope is that better target validation — which involves defining
the role of biological processes in diseases before developing a new
medicine — will improve success rates in the high-cost world of drug
At present, some 90 percent of experimental compounds entering
clinical trials fail in those tests, often because the basic biology
is poorly understood.
That creates a big incentive for companies to work collaboratively
in the early stages of drug research, according to Vallance, who
believes there is still plenty of scope for firms to differentiate
themselves later on.
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"If you can double the base knowledge then you've de-risked
things enormously, though you've still got to make your judgment in
your invention," he said. "It is not going to give you all the
answers but it is going to increase the chance of getting it right."
Other pre-competitive collaborative ventures include the
Innovative Medicines Initiative, a European Union-backed project to
speed drug development, and the Structural Genomics Consortium,
which works on protein structures.
The CTTV project aims to address a wide range of human diseases and
will seek to publish important findings in scientific journals, as
well as routinely sharing gene sequence data and information with
the wider scientific community.
The venture will be supported by around 50 researchers drawn from
the three founding organizations and will be based on the Wellcome
Trust campus in Cambridge.
GSK is making a "multi-million pound" contribution to fund initial
projects. The company declined to be more specific on how much money
it was putting in.
(Editing by Anthony Barker)
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