GSK Opens Up Its Databases to Fight Malaria

February 11, 2010

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK, London, UK) has begun a series of initiatives, which aim at combating diseases that affect the world?s poorest countries.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK, London, UK) has begun a series of initiatives, which aim at combating diseases that affect the world’s poorest countries. These initiatives include opening up its databases on malaria to be freely distributed amongst the scientific community. GSK has screened its pharmaceutical compound library of more than 2 million molecules for any that may inhibit the malaria parasite P. falciparum, the deadliest form of malaria, which is found primarily in sub-Saharan Africa. This exercise took five scientists a year to complete, and has yielded more than 13,500 compounds that could lead to the development of new and innovative treatments for malaria.

GSK will make these findings, including the chemical structures and associated assay data, freely available to the public through leading scientific web sites. The release of these data will mark the first time that a pharmaceutical company has made public the structures of so many of its compounds in the hope that they could lead to new medicines for malaria.

The company also has outlined the sustainable approach it has developed to price RTS,S, its malaria candidate vaccine. RTS,S is currently in pivotal Phase 3 trials across seven African countries. GSK and its partners are optimistic that the trials will lead to the first registered vaccine against malaria.

The pricing model will cover the cost of the vaccine together with a small return, which will be fully reinvested into research and development for second-generation malaria vaccines, or vaccines for other neglected tropical diseases. This will ensure sustainable long-term commitment to the malaria and neglected tropical disease research program.

GSK also has established the first ever Open Lab to act as an engine room of scientific innovation for neglected tropical diseases. It has created capacity for up to 60 scientists from around the world to have access to the Open Lab that will be based at the company’s research center at the Tres Cantos Campus, Spain, which is owned and operated by GSK.

In the Open Lab, scientists will be encouraged to tap into the expertise, knowledge, and infrastructure of the company, while pursuing their own projects as part of an integrated drug discovery team. GSK will establish a not-for-profit foundation with an initial seed investment of $8 million to help fund the research and facilitate better sharing of knowledge and ideas.

Building on its commitments to create a knowledge pool for neglected tropical diseases, governance of the knowledge pool will be taken over by an independent third party, BIO Ventures for Global Health (BVGH).

GSK and BVGH have signed a memorandum of understanding with the Emory Institute for Drug Discovery (EIDD) to join the pool and further open up knowledge, chemical libraries, and other assets in the search for new medicines for neglected tropical diseases.A second collaboration also has been established with South Africa firm iThemba Pharmaceuticals. This work will help research and discovery into new medicines to treat tuberculosis.

GSK’s announcement comes on the heels of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s pledge of $10 billion over the next 10 years for vaccine research, highlighting importance of vaccine development.