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GlaxoSmithKline Names Academic Drug Discovery Partners

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The pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline named 10 academic scientists to its Discovery Fast Track competition that aims to turn university research findings into new therapies. The researchers will get access to GlaxoSmithKline’s facilities and materials to accelerate the drug discovery process, potentially leading to a collaboration to further develop the compound.

Discovery Fast Track began in the U.K. in 2010 and so far established nine collaborations in the U.K., U.S., and Canada. The company says this year’s competition, which closed in July, attracted 142 entries from 70 labs at universities, hospitals, and research institutes in the U.S. and Canada.

The researchers selected in the latest round are:

– Sarah Ades at Pennsylvania State University, who proposed a new approach for an anti-microbial agent class of antibiotic for gram-negative bacteria

– Myles Akabas at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University for his proposed approach to find new treatments for malaria

– Lauren Brown and Scott Schaus at Boston University, with Jim McKerrow at University of California in San Francisco, for their research on leishmaniasis, a tropical disease spread by bites from sand flies

– Rahul Kohli at University of Pennsylvania, who proposed a new approach for the design of antibiotics to overcome clinical resistance

– Richard Leduc at Université de Sherbrooke in Quebec, Canada, for his proposed approach for new treatments for iron overload diseases

– Deborah O’Brien at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, for her new approach to the regulation of male fertility

– John Sondek, also at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill for his research on new treatments for metastatic epithelial cancers

A tenth participant, at Harvard Medical School, was not identified.

The selected participants will be able to test their proposed compounds with GlaxoSmithKline’s research staff and facilities at the company’s expense. These facilities include the company’s library of reagents and assays, as well as access to its high-throughput screening and bioinformatics resources. GlaxoSmithKline also helps participants validate their research findings with company software.

The entry and selection processes for Discovery Fast Track awards involve the institutions’ technology transfer offices that ascertain the discoveries entered in the competition are not encumbered by previous intellectual property claims. Researchers submitting the winning entries are required to complete confidential-disclosure and materials-transfer agreements to take part in the fast-track round.

If the screenings and tests show the compounds proposed by researchers have promise as therapies, the participants could be invited to become full partners in GlaxoSmithKline’s Discovery Partnerships with Academia that further develops the compound into therapy candidates. Those partnerships, says the company, can provide milestone payments in the development process and sales royalties after release as an approved medicine.

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