Yesterday evening at the Chancellor’s Building, Edinburgh BioQuarter hosted an event for Dr Duncan Holmes from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). As European Head of Discovery Partnerships with Academia (DPAc) he presented a concise overview of the DPAc process and how it benefits academic research and GSK alike. Dr Holmes has himself overseen two candidates through to medicines: Vilanterol (long acting beta-2 agonist) and Losmapimod (p38 kinase inhibitor) so is experienced in getting medicines to market.
The main thrust of Dr Holmes presentation showed how DPAc by GSK has the main goal of being a collaborative partner for academia from idea to medicine. There were several criteria before this process would be agreed: clear therapeutic hypothesis, a target defined pathway, exclusive expertise from the academic, tractability (likely hood of success) and that GSK is required to contribute. Within this there was strong focus on working to meet a current unmet need within drug discovery or disease pathways.
A small but highly experienced team was identified and each DPAc project would be overseen by one expert from this team. However Dr Holmes did make it clear that GSK wouldn’t take over and flex its industry muscle over a small academic team; instead cited instances where he enabled the academic team to carry out research that they knew better than GSK – inviting the opportunity for further insight. The DPAc process is arranged into milestones which funding and even royalties are given to the academic team when specific stages are successfully completed.
“Shared investment in a shared reward, academia and industry both contribute”
This process isn’t that dissimilar to the typical drug discovery and approval process we all know. However it does differ in regards that it brings an academic group along for the ride. As the financials have to be agreed as do publishing rights, which Dr Holmes recognised was important to research groups. As it was stated that articles would benefit from a wider range of scientific disciplines and could be accepted into higher impact journals as a result.
Dr Holmes praised Edinburgh University and the Edinburgh BioQuarter for making his job, and that of his team, easier by embracing DPAc and making the process far smoother than in other parts of the world. GSK ideally look to have 10 to 15 DPAc projects at any given time and currently work with academic groups in North America, Israel, Paris, London, Cambridge, Dundee and Edinburgh.
Overall DPAc is focused on re-personalising the relationship between academia and industry by identifying present unmet needs and collaborating with researchers who wish to work with GSK in bringing a medicine for those needs to market. An example from an Edinburgh based team showed how a DPAc project is reducing morbidity from acute pancreatitis. Hopefully awareness of this collaborative offer from GSK will spread and more research will be embraced and pushed forward by GSK – resulting in treatments for the future.
Currently there is a Discovery Fast Track Challenge for 2014 which will close on the 23rd of April 2014. Interestingly it only requires a short summary, no longer than an A4 page.