GSK to create independent research institute to improve medicines development

Seattle-based Altius Institute for Biomedical Sciences to pioneer new understanding of cell 'operating systems'

GSK is making a substantial investment to launch the Altius Institute for Biomedical Sciences, an independent, non-profit research institute, in Seattle, Washington. Altius will pioneer new technologies and approaches for decoding how genes are controlled and how a cell’s 'operating system' functions in health and disease.

Because of poor visibility into how medicines affect the inner workings of cells and tissues, many drugs fail in late stage development, which is extremely expensive. Gaining vision into the function and control of a cell’s genes will greatly improve the probability of selecting and developing the right drug targets for the right diseases. GSK expects to capitalise on rapid progress in understanding gene control to select and validate better drug targets, and to accelerate many key aspects of developing new medicines.

Altius, which will be led by Dr John Stamatoyannopoulos, an internationally recognised leader in gene regulation research and Professor of Genome Sciences and Medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine, will couple the scientific creativity and innovation of an academic environment with previously unavailable integrated capabilities in instrumentation, automation, and computation. The Institute will be wholly independent from GSK, with its own management, board of directors and external advisors.

'GSK is gaining a front-line view into the revolution now underway in understanding how cells function,' said Dr Stamatoyannopoulos. 'Innovative technologies are needed to gain a deeper understanding of how cells’ operating systems work. Translating this understanding effectively into clinical settings and the discovery of new medicines will require wholly new approaches to combining technology, molecular biology and computation. GSK’s pioneering support will enable Altius to innovate at the forefront of gene regulation science.'

GSK and Altius have signed a 10-year collaboration agreement that provides long-term support for innovative, high-impact research. During the first five years, GSK will provide more than US$95m in cash and other resources to advance the Institute’s basic research and technology efforts, which are also expected to attract funding from public and other sources.

Additional GSK funding will be provided to apply the Institute’s technologies and discoveries to a wide range of drug discovery and development projects, including specific projects identified by GSK. GSK has retained first rights to option the Institute’s inventions, and to invest in commercialisation of its discoveries via spinout companies.The company’s work with Altius is expected to result in increased efficiency and reduced attrition across R&D at GSK and could radically reshape the way drug development is conducted industry-wide.

'Dramatic breakthroughs in understanding how the human genome functions are still in their infancy in terms of how they can be applied to drug discovery, but we can see their potential to transform the process,' said Lon Cardon, Senior Vice president of Alternative Discovery and Development at GSK. 'This is not an incremental change. We are aiming for transformative outcomes that could improve our ability to bring innovative and more effective new medicines to patients.'