GSK establishes Immunology Network to collaborate with academic research scientists

  • Prof John Hamilton, University of Melbourne first of multiple global academics to come on sabbatical to GSK’s UK hub in Stevenage
  • New approach looks to stimulate innovation by looking outside GSK labs

Global pharmaceutical company, 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.

Australian Professor John Hamilton from the University of Melbourne was the first academic to join the program.  He is an internationally renowned expert in the field of macrophage biology and has been a leader of GM-CSF biology, elucidating its role in inflammatory disease pathways for many years.  

Dr Andrew Weekes, Medical Director, GSK Australia said: “A functioning immune system is crucial for human survival - and understanding its complexities in both health and disease is proving critical to almost every area of medicine; not just infectious disease, vaccinology and autoimmune conditions. GSK already has multiple research programmes with potential applications across multiple disease areas including respiratory medicine, rheumatology and oncology based on immunological approaches – and we recognise that we need to do more to stimulate innovation in new ways.

The “Immunology Network” embeds academic researchers into our labs to stimulate scientific debate, inspire new science and foster collaborations between GSK’s R&D immunology groups and the wider scientific community. We ultimately hope that this closer collaboration between academia and industry will lead to the discovery and development of new medicines.

We are delighted that Professor Hamilton was the first academic to join our researchers at our global R&D hub in Stevenage, UK in 2015 and will remain an ongoing collaborator. 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 Hamilton discovered that a particular protein, GM-CSF, might be a pro-inflammatory mediator in arthritis - demonstrating that depletion can reduce inflammatory and arthritic pain. This is significant, as effective pain control is one of the key challenges for people with osteoarthritis.

Arthritis is the major cause of disability and chronic pain in Australia, with 3.85million Australians affected at a cost to our economy of more than $23.9 billion each year in medical care and indirect costs such as loss of earnings and lost production.[1]

Professor John Hamilton from the University of Melbourne said: “My period with the GSK Immunology Network in the UK and USA enabled me to gain an appreciation of what GSK is currently achieving in the Immunology/Inflammation area. I was able to contribute some fruitful ideas in return.  Overall it was a positive experience for me mainly because of the degree of “openness” in my interactions with GSK and because I was made to feel welcomed.”

The Immunology Network hosts global experts to set up research labs called ‘the Immunology Catalyst’ at the GSK facility in Stevenage, UK.  The academic immunologists, who are predominantly focused on basic science will join GSK’s world class R&D facility in Stevenage, UK, where they will work alongside GSK’s scientists while pursuing their own independent research programmes. The academics will have access to GSK’s technologies and research tools and, by connecting with our scientists, have the opportunity to expand their knowledge of drug discovery and translational research.

After the formal sabbatical has come to an end, collaboration will continue between GSK and the academics.


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Bernadette Murdoch
Communications Director Australasia
Phone: 0449 950 745