MRC, GSK and five leading UK universities collaborate to crack difficult disease areas

Posted: 15 July 2015 | Victoria White

GSK and MRC are to collaborate on a unique open innovation research initiative aiming to improve scientists’ understanding of inflammatory diseases…

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GSK and the Medical Research Council (MRC) are to collaborate on a unique open innovation research initiative aiming to improve scientists’ understanding of inflammatory diseases that present a serious burden to patients.

The Experimental Medicine Initiative to Explore New Therapies (EMINENT) network will be coordinated by University College London (UCL) and will bring together teams of researchers from the Universities of Cambridge, Glasgow, Newcastle, Imperial College London and UCL, with GSK researchers to study the fundamental biological mechanisms responsible for a range of inflammatory diseases. It is hoped that combining the disease biology expertise of these academic scientists with GSK’s drug development expertise and resources will ultimately lead to breakthroughs in understanding that could accelerate the development of innovative treatments for patients.

Drug development is a lengthy, costly and risky process, with the majority of promising treatments failing in clinical trials and hence never reaching patients as medicines. This is because the biological processes that underlie many diseases are still not fully understood.

By gaining a better understanding of the inflammatory process in diseases such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and fibrosis, the collaboration aims to improve the success rate for discovering new potential treatments for these and other diseases. 

MRC funding of up to £8m over five years will support academic costs

Through the unique EMINENT network, MRC funding of up to £8m over five years will support academic costs. This will be matched with GSK in-kind contributions, including access to a portfolio of currently available medicines, experimental compounds, screening facilities and the company’s drug discovery and development in-house expertise. While GSK will retain ownership of the intellectual property covering these medicines and compounds, joint project teams of GSK and academic researchers will be able to use these as investigational tools to help answer scientific questions about human disease – which in turn could provide starting points for the development of next generation treatments for patients.

The initiative aims to support up to ten experimental medicine projects over the five year period. The academic research teams that are awarded funding by the MRC will work alongside their industry colleagues at both GSK and university facilities, with a view to building a legacy of expertise in translational and experimental human research across academia and industry. It is anticipated that the network will grow beyond the first five academic partners.

Information and new discoveries will be readily communicated across the network, and beyond, in a spirit of open innovation. This will help enable breakthroughs in understanding to be applied across a spectrum of diseases, maximising the potential of the initiative to bring real benefits to patients.

Professor Sir John Savill, Chief Executive at the Medical Research Council, said, “Despite major progress made over the last 20 years in many disease areas, some hard-to-treat conditions still carry high morbidity and mortality.  Addressing these challenges successfully requires close, flexible, collaboration across a range of disciplines with complementary methodological expertise and disease understanding which is why initiatives such as this are so important to the MRC. We believe this innovative approach could be applied in other areas to combine the work of academia and industry.”