Pharma

GSK uses contest to advance academic researchers’ pre-clinical drug development

It’s notoriously difficult to secure funding for the pre-clinical stage of drug development. Risk averse investors don’t want to take a chance on research where there’s a high risk of failure and it’s frequently not advanced enough to produce the kind of data that persuades decision makers. Then there’s the issue of being able to […]

It’s notoriously difficult to secure funding for the pre-clinical stage of drug development. Risk averse investors don’t want to take a chance on research where there’s a high risk of failure and it’s frequently not advanced enough to produce the kind of data that persuades decision makers. Then there’s the issue of being able to reproduce pre-clinical studies to get the same results. Enter big pharma player GSK (NYSE: GSK).

The pharmaceutical company’s Discovery Fast Track program is designed to identify and collaborate with academic researchers developing novel therapeutics and help advance their work.

Applicants submit a therapeutic hypothesis and target information and the status of the biological screen. Judging criteria for the submissions, according to the contest website, includes:

  • Strength of the therapeutic hypothesis
  • The degree of originality of the work presented
  • Level of completeness of the target/screening assay
  • Potential impact or benefit of the target to medicine (unmet medical need)
  • Investigator’s and institution’s capabilities to support entry into the Discovery Fast Track Competition and for joint execution of a DPAc project

In August 2013, an expert panel of judges will select up to 20 finalists, who will then submit an expanded application including confidential supporting data and present their proposal to GSK. Winners will be selected in October 2013.

Those academic researchers who are chosen will get access to some of the vast resources of the big pharma business, such as high throughput screening. That means that they can test millions of pure compounds (1.8 million to be exact) using a diverse set of technologies in biochemical and cellular assays of different complexity. It also has proprietary software for validation.

The deadline for submissions is July 19. Applicants can apply here.

Winning researchers will partner with investigators on GSK’s Discovery Partnerships with Academia team to develop viable, research-stage drug candidates into innovative medicines, according to a company statement. The three year old Discovery Partnerships program got its start in the UK and to date has led GSK to initiate nine collaborations, including two in the U.S. — one with Vanderbilt University to deveop a group of drugs to treat severe obesity and the other with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to develop muscular dystrophy therapeutics.

Other drug developers have used innovation challenges to crowdsource ways to improve chronic conditions and help solve painpoints in healthcare like Sanofi with its Data Design Diabetes challenge and Janssen’s Connected Care challenge.