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GlaxoSmithKline Teams with EMBL-EBI, Sanger Institute to Launch Target Validation Center

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – In an effort to address the high failure rate of drug candidates in clinical studies, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, the European Bioinformatics Institute, and GlaxoSmithKline have partnered to create a new center that will use genomics and big data technologies to validate drug targets, EMBL-EBI said today.

Based at the Wellcome Trust Genome Campus near Cambridge, the Centre for Therapeutic Target Validation (CTTV) will launch with a £1 million ($1.7 million) investment from GSK that will fuel its initial research projects.

The center will seek to use advances in genetics research to address one of the most formidable problems facing drug developers: an estimated 90 percent of compounds that enter clinical trials fail, either because they do not work or because they are unsafe. The failure rate is so high primarily because the biological targets for drugs are not well understood, EMBL-EBI said.

The staff of an estimated 50 scientists at the CTTV, pooled from the three partners, will combine their expertise in genomics, proteomics, chemistry, and disease biology to study large volumes of data and published research to enhance existing target validation capabilities.

Wellcome Trust researchers will contribute their knowledge of genetics in health and disease, EMBL-EBI scientists will use bioinformatics methods to analyze large amounts of data, and GSK investigators will contribute their expertise in disease biology, drug discovery, and translational medicine.

The CTTV will initially be led by Interim Head Ewan Birney, associate director and senior scientist at EMBL-EBI, who will develop a work program to guide the center's research projects.

Birney said in a statement that the pre-competitive nature of the CTTV will enable the partners to "make the most of commercial R&D practice, but the data and information will be available to everyone."

"Target validation is one of the greatest challenges in drug discovery," added Patrick Vallance, president of pharmaceuticals at GSK. "By changing our business model, taking a more open-minded approach to sharing information and forging collaborations like the Centre for Therapeutic Target Validation, we believe there is an opportunity to accelerate the development of innovative new medicines."

Genomics research has increased the availability of drug targets, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute Director Mike Stratton said, but it also has presented a problem of how to convert these research findings into medicines. "The challenge we now address is to identify those new targets with the greatest relevance to human disease which, in turn, will undoubtedly increase the speed and efficiency in which new medicines can be developed."

GSK, Wellcome Trust, and EMBL-EBI have agreed that the sequence data and information gathered within the center will be shared with the larger scientific community, and researchers associated with the center will seek to publish their findings in peer-reviewed journals. The CTTV partners also will seek to bring in new corporate and academic partners to expand its activities, EMBL-EBI said.