Building on the success of its first programme in 2013, which ran in the US and Canada, GSK is implementing the challenge for a second year and expanding it to include Europe. Scientists who participate in the challenge are asked to submit details about the biological targets or pathways they are researching and the scientific rationale detailing how this early stage research could direct future drug development.
Scientists whose entries are selected will collaborate with GSK's Discovery Partnerships with Academia (DPAc) team, the sponsor of the challenge, to test their hypotheses on potential disease pathways or targets against GSK's extensive library of compounds. If a compound is identified during this process that shows activity against these pathways or targets, and could form the starting point for drug development, the winning investigators could be offered a formal DPAc partnership and opportunity to work together on the development of a potential new medicine.
The 2013 challenge received nearly 150 entries from 70 universities, academic research institutions, clinics and hospitals in the U.S. and Canada across 17 therapeutic areas. Entries selected last year focused on disease areas including malaria, antibiotic resistance and certain types of cancer.
The challenge provides a new template for drug discovery as it seeks to uncover the best opportunities for discovery research in just two to three months.
Launched in the UK in late 2010, DPAc is a new approach to drug discovery where academic partners become core members of drug-hunting teams. GSK and the academic partner share the risk and reward of innovation, where GSK funds activities in the partner laboratories, as well as provides in-kind resources to progress a programme from an idea to a candidate medicine. DPAc's reach is global. To date, GSK has initiated 11 collaborations in 11 disease areas in the US, Canada and Europe.
"Through this challenge we're paving the way for innovative new collaborations between academic scientists and investigators in GSK's DPAc team," said Pearl Huang, Global Head of DPAc. "This means successful entrants will be given access to GSK's unique, highly diverse compound collections and our expertise in drug discovery."
One of eight selected scientists from last year's challenge, Dr. Rahul Kohli, an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, proposed a potential new approach to the design of antibiotics. He said, "We now have a way to take an idea that has good potential and move it from an academic theory into the practical realm, where it may one day benefit patients." Dr. Kohli is now working with GSK to identify new compounds to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Duncan Holmes, Head of European DPAc, said, "As the Discovery Fast Track challenge is open to all principal investigators and is not restricted to any particular disease type or target strategy, it allows us to find and partner with those academics who have the most innovative and original ideas and capabilities."
Registering for the challenge consists of submitting a brief summary of the novel drug development concept, including non-proprietary details of the biological target. An expert panel of judges from GSK will then select up to 20 finalists, who will present their proposals in person.
Registration closes on April 23, 2014 in Europe and May 16, 2014 in North America. As many as ten scientists in each region will be selected and announced in late 2014. Further details can be found online at www.gsk.com/discoveryfasttrack.
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