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GSK commits to multi-million investment in UK life sciences sector deal

Published on 06/12/17 at 10:11am

In the latest boost to the UK’s life sciences strategy, GSK has committed £40 million to its work identifying new drug targets.

The investment pales in comparison to MSD’s recent £1 billion pledge; however, with a further two dozen deals expected to be announced over the coming weeks, it’s being lauded as a sign of confidence in the UK’s capacity to attract business. The UK government can certainly do with a boost, with a tense atmosphere hanging over its struggles with Brexit negotiations.

GSK’s announcement sees it expand upon its collaboration with the UK Biobank, which will see the company generate genetic sequencing data from 500,000 volunteer participants. This greatly expands on the 50,000 data sets it had previously engaged to sequence in an earlier announcement this year.

Part of the additional funding will also see an extended commitment to its own ‘Open Targets’ collaboration with the European Bioinformatics Institute, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Biogen and Takeda. This network sees genetic and biological data made available to researchers looking to identify and priorities targets for potential medicines.

Patrick Vallance, President, R&D, GSK, said: “This new investment by GSK, along with money from other public and private organisations, is building on the UK’s already world-leading status in the field of genomics and bioinformatics. Genetic evidence has revolutionised scientific discovery and drug development in recent years by providing clear links between genes and disease.”

He continued, “Currently, an estimated 90% of potential medicines entering clinical trials fail to demonstrate the necessary efficacy and safety, and never reach patients. Many of these failures are due to an incomplete understanding of the link between the biological target of a drug and human disease. By contrast, medicines developed with human genetic evidence have had substantially higher success rates and patient care has benefited.”

Beyond GSK’s investment, more news is expected from Janssen that is expected to announce a partnership with the University of Oxford exploring alternative approaches to managing clinical trials, with a focus on mental health.

Despite the positives on the announcements of these deals, there remain many questions that those within the life sciences will not feel have been adequately answered until Brexit talks begin to firm up – a prospect that looks still some distance away, after the recent scuppering of discussions over the Irish border by the DUP.

Ben Hargreaves

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