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GlaxoSmithKline launches Discovery Fast Track competition for academic researchers
by Jeffrey Bouley  |  Email the author


LONDON—In late 2010, GlaxoSmithKline PLC (GSK) launched its Discovery Partnerships with Academia (DPAc) program, with a goal of developing viable research-stage drug candidates into innovative medicines. Now, it has recently announced the launch of Discovery Fast Track, a competition designed to accelerate the translation of academic research into novel therapies—winners of the competition will partner with investigators on GSK's DPAc team  
Under the DPAc program, described as "a new approach to drug discovery where academic partners become core members of drug-hunting teams," GSK and the academic partner reportedly share both the risk and reward of innovation. Specifically, GSK funds activities in the partner laboratories, as well as provides in-kind resources to progress a program from an idea to a candidate medicine.  
DPAc programs are incredibly valuable," said Roger Cone, professor of molecular physiology and biophysics at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and a DPAc participant. "Pharmaceutical companies bring an industrial approach to drug discovery that can't be replicated in academia. Combined with the pharmacological expertise of academia, it's a perfect combination of skills and resources."  
GSK describes DPAc's reach as "global" and adds that it has initiated nine collaborations in nine disease areas, including two in the United States and one in Canada.  
So, why the competitive aspect with Discovery Fast Track?  
GSK says that it's doing this to avoid initial contract negotiations, "which are often perceived as the biggest bottleneck in the drug discovery process," and this lead the DPAc team to conceive the Discovery Fast Track competition "as a means to rapidly identify and screen the most promising hypotheses in academia."
GSK points out that the top seven deal-making pharma companies had nearly 80 agreements with academic institutions from 2011 to 2012 and that one reason there weren't more is probably because negotiating a contract—including figuring out how to manage intellectual property, profit sharing and publishing rights—can take as long as two years.  
As a GSK spokesperson told DDNEWS,  "By limiting the collaboration to a short burst up front, both sides win: potential drugs are explored faster without all the paperwork of a long-term collaboration."  
"With the Discovery Fast Track competition, we want to give all academic researchers who are passionate about translating their science into therapy a chance to collaborate and access GSK resources and expertise to help bring novel and transformative  treatments to patients," said Dr. Pearl Huang, global head of DPAc, in the news release about the deal. "We are excited to receive submissions in all therapeutic area and look forward to being part of the researcher's journey in making a difference."  
According to GSK, each winning academic investigator will share a novel drug development concept, including the therapeutic hypothesis, target, assay protocols and reagents. In return, GSK will configure a high- throughput assay to screen the target against its extensive compound library. Together, GSK and the investigator "will interpret and triage the output to identify chemical probes that researchers can use to test their hypotheses in more advanced biological assays."  
Ideally, if the effort prove fruitful, the work could lead to an actual DPAc partnership under which the parties could further assess the drug development potential.  
Registration for the competition closes on July 19. The application consists of a one-page summary, including the therapeutic hypothesis, the target information and the biological screen's status. In August 2013, an expert panel of judges will select up to 20 finalists, who will then submit an expanded application including confidential support data and present their proposal to GSK. Winners will be selected in October 2013.  

Code: E06121303



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