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GSK Invests $95M to Launch Institute Researching Gene Regulation for Rx Discovery, Development

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – GlaxoSmithKline announced on Tuesday a $95 million investment to launch the Altius Institute for Biomedical Sciences, which will develop new technologies and approaches to elucidate how genes are controlled and how a cell's "operating system" functions in healthy and disease states. 

Operating as an independent, non-profit institute, Seattle-based Altius will be led by John Stamatoyannopoulos, a professor of genome sciences and medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine. Altius will be wholly independent from GSK with its own management, board, and external advisors, GSK said. 

GSK and Altius have signed a 10-year collaboration agreement, and GSK will provide $95 million during the first five years in cash and other resources to advance the institute's research and technology efforts. Additional funding from the pharma firm will be provided to apply the institute's discoveries and technologies to drug discovery and development efforts, including projects specified by GSK. It added that it also anticipates funding will come from public and other sources. 

GSK retains first rights to option inventions made at Altius and to invest in the commercialization of its discoveries through spinout businesses. It said that it expects discoveries in gene control made at the institute will be used to select and validate better drug targets and to accelerate the development of new therapies. 

GSK also said that the collaboration is expected to lead to the rapid translation of cutting-edge genetics research technologies to the drug discovery process. Knowing how a cell's genes function will improve the selection of the right drug targets for the right diseases, according to GSK, and the collaboration will improve efficiency while reducing attrition across R&D at the pharma giant. 

"This is not an incremental change," GSK Senior VP of Alternative Discovery and Development Lon Cardon said in a statement. "We are aiming for transformative outcomes that could improve our ability to bring innovative and more effective new medicines to patients." 

"Innovative technologies are needed to gain a deeper understanding of how cells' 'operating systems' work," Stamatoyannopoulos added. "Translating this understanding effectively into clinical settings and the discovery of new medicines will require wholly new approaches to combining technology, molecular biology, and computation. GSK's pioneering support will enable Altius to innovate at the forefront of gene regulation science."