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Dec 19, 2013
 |  BC Innovations  |  Translation in Brief

Translational tidbits

Consorting with academia

GlaxoSmithKline plc has set up an immuno-oncology consortium that invites academics from six cancer centers to view its nonpublic early pipeline programs and share ideas for new therapeutic candidates.

The Oncology Clinical and Translational Consortium (OCTC) includes the Gustave Roussy Institute, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the Netherlands Cancer Institute, the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and the Vall d'Hebron Institute of Oncology.

Mining academia for ideas is not new for GSK, as it previously created partnerships through its Center for Excellence for External Drug Discovery, which ran from 2005 to 2012, and it continues scouting for new opportunities via its Discovery Partnerships with Academia group.

The pharma also is putting some molecules in the public domain by contributing compounds and related data from discontinued programs to the therapeutics discovery program run by the NIH's National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.

Now, rather than giving out discontinued compounds or asking academics what they have in their labs, GSK is disclosing its own active, early stage programs and asking academics how they might leverage these with basic research findings to create improved therapeutics.

Axel Hoos, VP of the Immuno-Oncology and Combinations Discovery Performance Unit at GSK, is spearheading the consortium and told SciBX that there will be a significant-but not exclusive-focus on cancer immunotherapy combinations.

Hoos said that combination therapies in cancer frequently come about through ad hoc ideas based on what is already available. He expects the consortium will be a better way to have a science-driven approach to combining drugs to improve outcomes.

He said that the goal is for the academic scientists to provide mechanistic expertise on what compounds against specific targets might combine with the GSK pipeline compounds to produce new combinations. Ideas put forward by either GSK or the academics can then spawn new projects that might include either OTCT members or involve partnering with additional companies.

The consortium operates under an umbrella agreement with the participating centers. For each new project a contract will be negotiated with the relevant tech transfer office. Because there is no upfront investment, Hoos said that the OTCT is a low-cost way to increase the flow of ideas and to build the pipeline.

Despite that, Hoos acknowledges that there is some risk of leakage of proprietary GSK data to people outside of the alliance. Nevertheless, he believes the benefits of...

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