GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has kicked off another round of its drug discovery competition, which invites scientists from academia to submit proposals that could lead to a partnership with the pharma giant.
First launched in North America last year, the Discovery Fast Track Challenge has now been extended to Europe and will provide 20 awards to scientists who can demonstrate a promising, testable novel drug concept.
The competition allows academic researchers to tap into the discovery expertise of a big pharma company while GSK gets a view of emerging treatment ideas that can be evaluated in a short period - just two to three months - in tandem with the scientists leading the research.
Winning scientists will be able to access GSK's compound collection to screen for molecules that are active against the pathway or target and work with GSK scientists to try to identify suitable drug candidates.
The programme is another facet of GSK's Discovery Partnerships with Academia (DPAc) programme, which was launched in 2010 and aims to make GSK's drug discovery capabilities available to scientists around the world.
If a compound is identified during the challenge that shows activity against the target and looks likely to be 'druggable', the investigators could be offered a formal DPAc partnership with a higher level of access to GSK resources.
The DPAc effort has already led to partnerships being drawn up with scientists at Vanderbilt University in the area of obesity, the University of Pennsylvania for new antibiotics and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre, where a project is looking for new treatments for muscular dystrophy. All told, GSK has initiated 11 partnerships via the DPAc effort.
Duncan Holmes, head of GSK's European DPAc group, said: “As the … challenge is open to all principal investigators and is not restricted to any particular disease type or target strategy, it allows us to find and partner with those academics who have the most innovative and original ideas and capabilities."
The effort ties in with an emerging trend in pharma for open innovation, which in essence means fostering a culture of collaboration with external scientists to tap into new discoveries early and accelerate their translation into drug development projects.
GSK's challenge is just one approach, and its rivals have adopted others. For example, Johnson & Johnson has set up a network of innovation centres at research hot spots around the world to try to brings its own scientists into contact with academics, while Lilly makes early-phase drug development capabilities available to external researchers via its Chorus division.
Registration for the challenge closes on April 23 in Europe and May 16 in North America.