GSK teams up to apply Big Data to target validation

The combination of genomics and bioinformatics expertise now needed for target validation has led drugmakers to look outside their walls for skills, with Pfizer ($PFE) teaming with the Broad Institute on such a project. Now GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) has set up its own initiative and called for its Big Pharma peers to get involved.

Patrick Vallance--courtesy of GSK
Patrick Vallance--Courtesy of GSK

GSK has partnered with the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute to establish the Center for Therapeutic Target Validation (CTTV). The basic goal is to sift through the deluge of genomics, proteomics, chemistry and disease biology data to find new therapeutic targets. EMBL-EBI will facilitate this work by combining the different sources of data and then mining the information for details of possible targets.

CCTV will share its sequencing data publicly, potentially providing a platform for drug development at GSK and its competitors. "If you can double the base knowledge then you've de-risked things enormously, though you've still got to make your judgement in your invention. It is not going to give you all the answers but it is going to increase the chance of getting it right," GSK's pharma R&D head Patrick Vallance told Reuters.

GSK and its Big Pharma peers have become increasingly receptive to such precompetitive partnerships as the magnitude of early stage drug discovery in the genomics era has become clear. The Wellcome Trust and GSK are both also involved with the Structural Genomics Consortium, and the whole of the European healthcare system is contributing to the Innovative Medicines Initiative. GSK wants CCTV to follow the lead of these initiatives by bringing together more drugmakers and academic institutes.

"I fully expect others to join. But it seemed sensible to get started right away rather than spend two or three years trying to get lots of other people involved," Vallance said. Eli Lilly ($LLY), Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) and Merck ($MRK) took a similar approach to their clinical trial investigator database, which began as a three-company project but soon became one of Big Pharma consortium TransCelerate BioPharma's initiatives.

- here's the Reuters article
- read FierceBiotech's take