Doctors in the house

GSK is internalizing external innovation, bringing academics in house

While academic partnerships have become par for the course in pharma, GSK is going a step beyond the standard model of external alliances by bringing professors in-house with virtually unrestricted access to its activities. The initiative is the latest example of pharmas lowering their guard in order to both access cutting-edge science and foster the ecosystem’s future innovators.

It’s a necessary but worthwhile price to pay, according to Paul-Peter Tak, who created the program, dubbed Immunology Network, in 2015. Tak is Chief Immunology Officer and SVP of the R&D Pipeline at GlaxoSmithKline plc.

“Our philosophy is to be very open with the external world in terms of target identification and target validation. We compete in terms of molecules,” Tak told BioCentury.

The core of the Immunology Network involves providing academic researchers with three-year sabbaticals inside GSK’s R&D hub in Stevenage, where they are given a lab, personnel and access to the pharma’s technology, compound libraries and internal meetings and data.

Tak noted the program is “not transforming them into GSK employees. They continue to be employees of the university, and we reimburse the university.”

Moreover, the researchers can take their discoveries with them when they leave.

“If they discover something within our facilities that’s completely based on their own research, then they actually own the IP. I think no other company has done it in this way,” said Tak.

Louise Modis, the Immunology Network’s scientific director, told BioCentury that the program’s IP terms boil down to the principle

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