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GSK launches Discovery Fast Track: Australian Challenge in search of early drug discovery partnerships with local researchers

GSK has launched its Discovery Fast Track Australian Challenge, a program designed to accelerate the translation of early-stage research into game-changing new medicines. The Challenge provides a new template for drug discovery as it aims to rapidly uncover the best opportunities for discovery research.

Academic scientists are encouraged to participate in the Challenge by submitting details about the biological targets or pathways they are researching, along with scientific rationale detailing how this early-stage research could direct future drug development. GSK will shortlist finalists based on the strength of the scientists’ hypotheses, originality, initial progress and the ability to deliver on an unmet medical need. Winners will get access to GSK’s state of the art screening technologies and extensive library of compounds. Working with GSK experts, winning scientists will be able to test their hypotheses in the hope of finding compounds with the potential to develop into the medicines of the future. In addition, up to $75,000AUD will be provided to enable winners to conduct supportive research for the collaboration.  

Two key global GSK executives, Andy Pope, Executive Director, Leader Biology Discovery Partnerships with Academia Future Pipeline Discovery and Duncan Holmes who is the GSK Senior Fellow European Head, Discovery Partnerships with Academia, are currently in Australia to launch the Challenge and meet researchers from across the country.

Duncan Holmes believes there is a real advantage in bringing together the best in academia and industry to help take innovative ideas forward in drug discovery.

“The GSK Discovery Fast Track Australian Challenge is designed to find the best ideas for collaborative drug discovery. We look forward to working with each of the winners to help identify novel quality pharmacologically active compounds for their targets and being part of the researcher’s early steps in their drug discovery journey,” said Holmes. “Collaborating together, through programs such as the GSK Discovery Fast Track Australian Challenge, we can help progress basic research towards the goal of discovering new medicines for patients. We are excited to be here in Australia to explore collaboration opportunities through the Challenge, that may ultimately lead to new medicines for the benefit of patients”.

According to Andy Pope, collaboration with academics provides a highly powerful approach to the development of important new medicines.  

“A critical early step in the discovery of new medicines is the identification of chemical starting points which target novel disease mechanisms.  Often, the capabilities required to achieve this are only available within the labs of major pharmaceutical companies.  Through the Discovery Fast Track Challenge, we have now collaborated with over 30 researchers around the world to perform high throughput screening in order to progress ideas which could lead to important new medicines.  We are very excited to now bring this program to Australian researchers, allowing them an opportunity to access these capabilities for the first time”.

GSK Australia Medical Director Andrew Weekes said the company was delighted that the initiative was coming to Australia given the country’s rich history of healthcare innovation and strong biomedical research base.  “By launching the Discovery Fast Track Australian Challenge, we hope to forge new collaborations, which will help progress important research towards the discovery of new medicines,” said Weekes.

Scientists whose entries are selected will collaborate with GSK’s research teams to test their hypotheses on potential disease pathways or targets against GSK’s extensive library of compounds. If a compound is identified during this process that shows activity against these pathways or targets, and could form the starting point for the development of a new medicine, the winning investigators could be offered a formal DPAc partnership and opportunity to work together on the development of a potential new medicine.  

Since its initial launch in 2013, the annual Discovery Fast Track Challenge has attracted more than eleven hundred proposals from more than three hundred universities, academic research institutions and hospitals in 28 counties. Previous entries have focused on a broad range of disease areas, including malaria, antibiotic resistance and certain types of cancer.

Submissions are now open until Friday 27th April. Further details can be found at  

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For more information please contact:

Rachel McWhinnie  Antoinette Lee
Palin Communications  GSK Australia
0490 778 725 0467 738 521