Open innovation

To encourage innovation targeting diseases of the developing world - where there is not the same potential commercial return as in developed countries - we have changed the way we think about intellectual property and the way we work with others.

Our open innovation strategy is designed to promote change beyond GSK by sharing expertise, resources intellectual property and know-how with external researchers and the scientific community. Although the current focus is on disease of the developing world, we are already adapting open innovations models to apply to other areas of great medical need and scientific challenge including infectious and rare diseases.

Open lab: Tres Cantos

We are committed to researching new treatments for diseases that affect millions of people in the world’s developing nations. We have a heritage and expertise in researching and developing new medicines and vaccines, and we are directing our scientific resources into this important area.

Our specialist research centre at Tres Cantos in Spain concentrates on global health priorities like malaria and TB. We work closely in public-private partnerships, with groups including the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) and the Global Alliance for TB drug Development (TB Alliance).

Open Lab at Tres Cantos

In 2010, we stated our intention to ‘open up’ the Tres Cantos campus to allow GSK researchers to work more collaboratively with scientists from universities, not-for-profit partnerships and other research institutes.

Malaria research

In May 2010, the first success in opening up access to our compounds was realised, with the publication of over 13,500 promising potential ‘hits’ in the journal Nature to stimulate drug discovery research for malaria. The chemical structures and associated assay data of these compounds are now stored on leading public scientific websites:

This open approach has seen us share our anti-malarial data with 14 research institutions around the world, resulting in a number of new research projects. A pre-requisite for granting access to the data is that the researchers agree to put their findings in to the public domain, thus encouraging further collaborative research by the scientific community on this challenging disease.

The group Medicines for Malaria Ventures (MMV), which partly funded our initial malaria screening, has also been instrumental in coordinating this open source approach. MMV have created a ‘malaria box set’ made up of the compounds donated by us, and other research groups including St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital and Novartis. The malaria box has been sent to more than 100 groups around the world.

Several labs are also involved in an exciting new open source drug discovery project for malaria - the first of its kind - using a new idea called ‘Open Notebook Science’. This involves publishing the notebook of the researcher online, along with all the raw and processed data and any associated material, as it is recorded. Led by the Todd lab at the University of Sydney with MMV and GSK’s Tres Cantos facility, this new practice hopes to speed up the collaboration process.

TB research

In October 2012 we announced we were adopting the same open approach to TB research, by putting around 200 TB “hits” into the public domain. In the same way that we previously opened up access to our malaria data, we will make these TB data freely available to the public online and will also seek publication of this information in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. We hope the release of these data will encourage a fully open approach to TB research, which we believe is the key to accelerating the development of new medicines to treat this disease.

Tres Cantos Open Lab Foundation

To support visiting scientists and their research projects, we set up a not-for-profit group, the Tres Cantos Open Lab Foundation, with an initial investment of £5 million, which we doubled in 2012 to a total of £10 million.

Since the ‘Open Lab’ was established two years ago, 21 scientists from world-class institutions have come to work on 14 projects in the Open Lab, and eight further projects have been approved. One of the completed projects was conducted by iThemba, a company supported by the South African Government, which worked on a project at the ‘Open Lab’ to identify potential new compounds against tuberculosis (TB), specifically multidrug, extremely drug-resistant TB and co-infection with HIV-AIDS. There are further projects underway at Tres Cantos looking at TB, malaria, Chagas disease, leishmaniasis and sleeping sickness.

The Open Lab’s vision is to have around ten projects at Tres Cantos at any given time. The majority of these will be funded by the Tres Cantos Open Lab Foundation.

By opening the centre to more alliances, and by continuing to drive our “open innovation” agenda, we aim to provide a critical mass of knowledge around neglected diseases. We hope this knowledge will lead to the discovery and development of desperately-needed new medicines, creating a truly world-leading facility in collaborative research.

Find out more about current projects at Tres Cantos

Stevenage science park

Located amid a cluster of academic centres of excellence and other pharma companies, the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst campus is a major hub for early-stage biotechnology companies.  It provides small to medium-sized biotech and life sciences companies and start-ups with access to the expertise, networks and scientific facilities traditionally associated with multinational pharmaceutical companies.

A key aim of Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst is to pioneer a culture of open-innovation that will place the UK bioscience sector at the forefront of worldwide biomedical discovery and deliver cutting edge healthcare solutions.

Our involvement

The Stevenage campus is the result of a unique partnership between GSK, the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills, the Wellcome Trust, the East of England Development Agency and the Technology Strategy Board. GSK provided land, facilities and investment totalling almost £11m to help build and launch the campus.

The campus opened for business on 9 February 2012 and welcomed its first tenant – Aptiv Solutions – on the same day.

Facilities and opportunities

With long-term plans to expand the campus fivefold, the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst campus offers a range of equipment and commercial opportunities that would be impossible for a small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) to develop alone.

In addition to its outstanding scientific facilities, Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst also offers valuable opportunities for scientific and commercial networking. Tenants retain full independence and the freedom to interact with any commercial partners.

Open lab for NCDs in Africa

In Africa and across developing countries, non-communicable diseases such as cancer and diabetes pose an increasing threat. Current projections indicate that by 2020, the largest increases in deaths from NCDs will occur in Africa.

An innovative approach is needed to address this. That is why we are building on the success of our open lab at Tres Cantos and creating the world’s first R&D Open Lab for non-communicable diseases (NCDs). We hope that the collaborative approach we have taken to tackling diseases of the developing world could also help us better understand NCDs in Africa.

The new R&D Open Lab for African NCDs will see GSK scientists collaborate with research and scientific centres across Africa from its hub at our Stevenage R&D facility in the UK. They will conduct research to increase understanding of NCDs in Africa, helping to inform prevention and treatment strategies.

The open lab aims to improve understanding of NCD variations seen in the Africa setting, for example the apparent higher prevalence of treatment-resistant hypertension and aggressive breast cancers in younger women.

It is hoped that these insights will inform prevention and treatment strategies and will enable researchers across academia and industry to discover and develop new medicines to address the specific needs of African patients.

The open lab will directly support the training and education of African scientific researchers who will participate in a portfolio of projects, building local expertise, creating a new generation of African NCD experts while instilling a deep vein of ‘African thinking’ within GSK’s own R&D organisation.