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GSK Announces Singapore Collaborations

Four academic groups get GSK drug discovery partnerships.

November 16, 2010 | SINGAPORE—GlaxoSmithKline has announced the first four academic partnerships under the GlaxoSmithKline-Singapore Academic Centre of Excellence (ACE) announced in January. Awards went to researchers at the A*STAR-Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences; Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School; National University of Singapore, School of Medicine; the Singapore Eye Research Institute, and the National University Hospital.

Academics have strengths in biology, understanding pathways, and clinical research, said Patrick Vallance, senior vice president of drug discovery at GSK, pointing to Singapore’s Biopolis research park as evidence. GSK brings expertise in chemistry to the table, and Vallance believes that coupling those together will lead to more innovation approaches to discovering medicines.

“We really tap into the investment that’s been made in basic science and clinical science here in Singapore, which has put it very much on the world stage, and why we want to be here,” Vallance said.

The amount given to each collaboration was not disclosed. “This is catalytic,” said Vallance. “We’re not funding a research program the way people normally do. We’re giving enough get to a stage to understand whether there is a joint drug discovery program that we can take forward together.” Vallance defined success for the ACE partnerships as identifying promising projects in academia, forging joint research teams, and developing successful drug discovery programs. The goal of ACE is not just knowledge discovery and good experiments, he said. The goal is good medicine.

“It’s very clearly objective driven. If we don’t get to a stage where there’s something concrete we can latch on to and we both know we’ve got a medicine, then we’ll move on to something else.”

The first four projects chosen for collaboration are in the areas of ophthalmology, regenerative medicine, and neurodegeneration. These projects align closely with research that GSK is already active and invested in at the neurodegeneration research center in Singapore. However, Vallance hopes that future ACE collaborations will expand into areas in which GSK is not already active. “Going forward I really want to move to the system of identifying something where somebody has a great target that they’re working on, and we end up applying the chemistry and the know how in drug discovery,” he said.  

First Four

The collaborations announced yesterday will be evaluated on undisclosed individual objectives and timelines. ACE will consider new collaborations on a continuous basis.

Feng Xu of the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences will be working with the GSK Sirtris Discovery Performance Unit (DPU) on investigating how cells store adipose tissue and protein disfunctions that can lead to diabetes and obesity.

Eyleen Goh of Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School will work the with stem cell and neurodegenerative DPUs to study the brain’s ability to regenerate connections. Gavin Stewart Dawe of the National University of Singapore is also working GSK’s stem cell and neurodegenerative DPUs to develop an animal model for evaluating and refining experimental medicines for neurodegenerative disease.

Finally, Tien Wong and Carol Cheung of the Singapore Eye Research Institute and Christopher Chen of the National University Hospital are partnering with GSK’s Singapore DPU and the neurodegenerative DPU to identify retinal vascular biomarkers for progression of Alzheimer’s Disease.

GlaxoSmithKline has had a research center in Singapore since 2005.

This article also appeared in the November-December 2010 issue of Bio-IT World Magazine. Subscriptions are free for qualifying individuals. Apply today.
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