GSK puts Australian researchers on Discovery Fast Track

  • GSK will provide access to its expertise in research, platform technologies and compounds to researchers from Monash University and the University of South Australia.
  • Collaboration between academia and industry through joint research teams to help accelerate discovery of new therapies.

Researchers who have identified potential targets for new medicines for acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) and the autoimmune disease, lupus, have been announced as the two Australian winners of the GSK Discovery Fast Track Challenge.

The winners will be granted rare access to GSK’s state-of-the-art research resources, expertise and compound library to screen their targets to identify molecules that could potentially become new medicines. The GSK Discovery Fast Track Challenge was designed to help turn innovative research into treatments for patients faster, by fostering greater collaboration between academia and industry.

Professors Tom Gonda and Richard D’Andrea from the University of South Australia will work together with GSK scientists to test GSK compound libraries against a target protein that plays a role in a number of different cancers. It has been shown to be critical in acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) and the researchers believe the discovery of a molecule that could block the function of this protein could ultimately lead to new therapies.

“It’s an exciting area of research and it’s terrific to have access to the range of GSK technologies and expertise so we can use them to identify candidate drugs against our target protein,” Professor Gonda said. “This is a very promising line of enquiry in regard to new treatments, especially given AML currently has such a poor prognosis, with less than 30 per cent of patients surviving for five years after diagnosis.”

Dr Kim Good-Jacobson from the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute, is also a winner of the 2018 Discovery Fast Track Challenge and is looking at how to target and destroy antibody producing cells that cause autoimmune diseases.

“For the past three years we have been working on a target that is able to recognise the antibody producing cells that cause autoimmune diseases like lupus. Our next challenge is to discover an inhibitor for it,” Dr Good-Jacobson said.

“By having access to GSK libraries, we can immediately begin screening against our target. Through this process we hope to determine a molecule that may become the basis for a drug to help patients living with lupus,” said Dr Good-Jacobson.

Alastair Hick, Senior Director Monash Innovation says deep working relationships between academia and industry are crucial to accelerating discovery that can address unmet needs.

“Researchers and the pharmaceutical industry have extensive innovative ideas and knowledge, but often with little transparency. Initiatives like the GSK Discovery Fast Track Challenge help to bring the two worlds together.”

“Through the Discovery Fast Track Challenge GSK is leading the way in building strong collaborations between industry and academia. It is through initiatives like this that patients could benefit from our researcher’s work sooner.”

The winning proposals were selected from over 80 entries based on their potential to impact diseases where there is an unmet medical need and where patients would strongly benefit from new therapeutic interventions.

This year’s challenge winners will also receive up to AUD $75,000 in funding to support the collaboration from GSK’s Discovery Partnerships with Academia (DPAc) program.

Andrew Weekes, Medical Director for GSK Australia said: “I am delighted to congratulate our winners of this year’s Australian Challenge. The Challenge has been extremely successful in identifying exciting new collaborative opportunities that may ultimately lead to innovative medicines to tackle unmet patient need. This program has also enhanced our ability to reach out and make contacts with leading academics.”