GSK ploughs $95m into research institute

GlaxoSmithKline is pouring $95 million into a new US research institute to investigate how a cell’s operating system works in order to speed up drug discovery.

Over an initial five-year period GSK will provide more than $95 million in cash and other resources to the Altius Institute, which is to be led by John Stamatoyannopoulos, a professor of genome science and medicine at the University of Washington.

He says The Altius Institute for Biomedical Sciences “is definitely a new kind of research organisation and new type of collaboration with a pharma company.”

The UK pharma giant is also promising additional funding to apply the Institute’s work to a variety of drug development projects.

It says there is little knowledge of how drugs affect the inner workings of cells and tissues, with the result being expensive late-stage failures of many medicines – so by applying the latest genetic research to that area it is looking to increase efficiency and output.

Scientists will seek to find meaning in regions of the genome that control what they call ‘the cell’s operating system.’ GSK is hoping that this understanding of gene control will help it find better molecular targets.

Altius will be completely independent from GSK, but Stamatoyannopoulos notes that the company has the first right to negotiate for licensing technology from the Institute – and can invest in any spinoff companies that arise.

He said Altius should be functioning before the end of the year and will initially have a core research operation of 40 to 80 people.

GSK itself has been at the centre of much takeover talk of late, in May it was suggested as a potential M&A target for Pfizer, despite the US company backing out of a similar deal with AstraZeneca last year.

And just this week dealers were signalling that the pharma sharks were circling the firm through speculating that it may face an approach shortly from Swiss pharma giant Roche, or Johnson & Johnson.

Brett Wells

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