Targeting the immune system through open innovation

A functioning immune system is crucial to our health. As we have increased our understanding of this complex system of cells that protect our bodies, we have discovered that its role goes beyond such things as keeping colds at bay and fighting infections. If this network of cells stops working adequately it can lead to diseases that impact almost every area of medicine, such as cancer, respiratory illnesses like asthma and chronic inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.

This is why the field of immunology has become a fertile area for the discovery and development of new medicines.  Whether a disease is inflammatory in nature, cancerous or due to an infection, our immune system is playing a key role. If we can gain a greater understanding of how the different parts of our immune system work when things go wrong and why it can lead to disease, we can potentially target the immune system to develop innovative new medicines.

We have at least 10 research units focused on immunology across several therapeutic areas such as respiratory diseases, cancer, metabolic diseases, infectious diseases, and immune-mediated inflammatory diseases and have multiple research programmes underway with a number of potential medicines in development to help correct immune system dysfunction.

But we also recognise that the science is moving rapidly in this field and we won’t discover everything on our own. That’s why we have created the Immunology Network, an initiative connecting GSK to the work of academic scientists and their novel immunology research. 

Prof John Hamilton from the University of Melbourne was the first academic to join the Network.  He has played a key role in understanding the causes of arthritic disease and pain and will contribute significantly to the vibrant immunology community we are building across GSK. 

Prof John Hamilton talks about why he joined GSK's global immunology network.

An Expert Board of world-renowned academics are already working with us to identify exciting areas of research for our drug discoverers to explore and are lending their expertise as projects progress.  And to truly “bring the outside in”, we are also launching the Immunology Catalyst as part of this initiative.

This is a novel approach to drive new ideas in harnessing the human immune system, embedding leading immunologists from academic research institutions within our labs, enabling scientists from each organisation to truly work side by side.

GSK researchers across R&D will learn new skills and ways of working from the external immunology experts. In turn, these academics will have the freedom to continue their own independent research while gaining access to our world class technologies and a greater understanding about pharmaceutical R&D, industrial research and medicines development.  Over the next 12 months, 6 experts from around the world are expected to join us and set up research labs at our R&D facility in Stevenage. They will be our ongoing collaborators even after their sabbatical at GSK comes to an end. Together, we hope to discover the next breakthroughs in immunology that can be developed into therapies for multiple diseases.

The Immunology Network will give us access to the brightest scientists in the world who are free in their thinking and who can go into paths that we’ve not thought of yet. We want to make sure that they are connected to the scientists that discover and develop medicines at GSK

Paul-Peter Tak, GSK Research and Development, Sponsor of the Immunology Network

It is our firm belief that this collaborative, open way of working between academics and GSK scientists will benefit both sides. Our ultimate hope is to stimulate scientific debate, spark new ideas and identify areas of breakthrough research to help us develop new medicines.

Watch this video with Prof John Hamilton, Uni of Melbourne

GSK has launched a new immunology research collaboration model – the Immunology Catalyst sabbatical program – designed to embed academic scientists in GSK laboratories with the goal to broaden scientific insight and drive major breakthroughs in applied immunology. Prof John Hamilton talks about why he joined.