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GSK sets up new research initiative in Seattle

Will use an independent research base to understand how cells work


GlaxoSmithKline is investing an initial $95m to launch the Altius Institute for Biomedical Sciences (Altius), an independent, non-profit research institute, in Seattle, Washington.

Altius (which translates as 'higher' in Latin) will seek to pioneer new technologies and approaches for decoding how genes are controlled.

It will assess how a cell's 'operating system' functions in health and disease. GSK expects to capitalise on recent progress in understanding gene control to select better drug targets, and to accelerate the development of new medicines.

This also forms part of a new strategy from GSK, which has been struggling to find consistent growth from its current pipeline for the past two years, and recently sold off its cancer drugs to Novartis in exchange for its vaccine business.

The firm had looked as if it was moving away from the traditional pharmaceuticals-based business approach, but with this new investment the UK-based company is keen to show that it wants to remain at the forefront of research and innovation.

Altius will be led by Dr John Stamatoyannopoulos, an internationally-recognised leader in gene regulation research and Professor of Genome Sciences and Medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

Altius will be wholly independent from GSK, with its own management, board of directors and external advisers; but the two groups have signed a 10-year collaboration agreement that provides long-term support for research.

During the first five years, GSK will provide around $95m in cash and other resources to advance the Institute's basic research and technology efforts - which are also expected to attract funding from public and other sources. 

Additional GSK funding will be provided to apply the Institute's technologies and discoveries to a wide-range of drug discovery and development projects, including specific projects identified by the firm. 

GSK has also retained first rights to option the Institute's inventions, and to invest in commercialisation of its discoveries via spinout companies.

The company said it is investing in this project as part of an attempt to drive down costly R&D failures.

Dr Stamatoyannopoulos said: “With this visionary investment, GSK is gaining a front-line view into the revolution now underway in understanding how cells function.

“Innovative technologies are needed to gain a deeper understanding of how cells' 'operating systems' work. Translating this understanding effectively into clinical settings and the discovery of new medicines will require wholly new approaches to combining technology, molecular biology and computation. GSK's pioneering support will enable Altius to innovate at the forefront of gene regulation science.”


Altius said in a statement that it expects to collaborate “extensively” with Seattle-area research institutions to pioneer translation of basic discoveries into clinical advances.

Seattle is home to a number of world-class biomedical research institutions such as the University of Washington, one of the most highly funded public research universities in the USA, and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, home to three Nobel Prize winners.

The Institute is expected to be operational later this year.

Article by
Ben Adams

17th June 2015

From: Research



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