GlaxoSmithKline joins the U.K.'s new Crick Institute for some open R&D

GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) is the first pharma company to get behind the U.K.'s forthcoming Francis Crick Institute, signing on to lend its minds and molecules to an open R&D effort.

Named for the famed co-discoverer of DNA structure, the Crick Institute is an under-construction London biomedical research outpost that will eventually employ 1,250 scientists with an annual budget of £100 million ($156 million). The Crick isn't expected to open its doors until next year, but GSK is getting in on the ground floor with a collaboration deal it believes can generate new ideas in infectious disease and cancer.

Under the agreement, each party will devote lab space and about 20 staff members to a joint research effort, pairing the Crick's expertise in disease biology with GSK's experience in drug development. The scientists will work side-by-side on early-stage projects designed to better understand the root causes of disease, and, in keeping with the Crick's founding ethos, the pair has promised to share all of its findings through joint publication in peer-reviewed journals.

The partners plan to get started this year with an initial focus on HIV, malaria and cancer, expanding to launch as many as 15 projects once the Crick gets rolling in 2016. In addition to its committed human capital, GSK has agreed to provide access to its compound library, antibodies, reagents and other research tools.

Formed in collaboration with Cancer Research UK, Imperial College London, King's College London, the Medical Research Council, University College London and the Wellcome Trust, the Crick is an effort to unite some of Britain's brightest biomedical minds under the idea that collaborative research trumps isolated experimentation. And GSK, which has long carried the torch for R&D transparency among Big Pharma companies, sees itself as a natural fit for the institute.

GSK pharma R&D president Patrick Vallance

"As a company with deep research roots in the U.K., we're enormously proud of this country's vibrant biosciences community and the cutting-edge biomedical research that takes place here," GSK pharma R&D president Patrick Vallance said in a statement. "We're thrilled to be the first industry partner of this dynamic organization and believe that by working alongside one another, combining our unique strengths, we'll be well-placed to make game-changing advances in our understanding of human disease, which will ultimately improve our ability to make new medicines."

Meanwhile, GSK is in the process of shuffling how it handles internal R&D, significantly scaling back its research campus in North Carolina while setting up a vaccines outpost in Maryland and laying out $95 million to launch a nonprofit institute of its own in Seattle.

- read the statement