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Drug Discovery Consortium Harnesses Sequencing, Big Data

Server farm

(Simon Law/Flickr)

27 March 2014. A collaboration among the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKlineEuropean Bioinformatics Institute, and Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute aims to tap the power of genomic sequencing combined with bioinformatics to boost the success rate of discovering safe and effective medicines. Financial details of the partnership creating the new Centre for Therapeutic Target Validation were not disclosed.

The consortium seeks to better understand biological targets for drugs earlier in the discovery and development process. The success rate of drugs in clinical trials is dropping, according to a study published earlier this year in the journal Nature Biotechnology. The study notes that the likelihood of drugs in early-stage (phase 1) trials clearing all checkpoints and getting approved is only about 10 percent, although the rate is a bit higher — 15% — for drugs’ primary disease targets.

The  Centre for Therapeutic Target Validation plans to improve those odds by exploring the large volumes of data generated from genomic sequencing, protein chemistry, and the biology of disease. The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute will contribute its expertise in genetics, while GlaxoSmith Kline will furnish its experience in disease biology, translational medicine, and drug discovery.

European Bioinformatics Institute, a division of European Molecular Biology Laboratory, will provide its bioinformatics resources to integrate and analyze the anticipated large volumes of data to be collected. The results of the Centre’s efforts are expected to complement other research methods, including preclinical animal tests and disease epidemiology.

In addition, the Centre expects to immediately share its sequencing and other data with the larger scientific community, consistent with the partner organizations’ guidelines and after quality-assurance checks. The Centre also anticipates submitting its findings for publication in scientific journals.

Ewan Birney, associate director of European Bioinformatics Institute, was named interim director of the Centre, who will be joined by up to 50 researchers from the three organizations. Once the Centre is established, it plans to seek out other companies and organizations as collaborators.

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