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GSK opens up data to disease researchers

Pharmaceuticals company GlaxoSmithKline has committed to sharing its clinical trial data with scientists in order to aid drug discovery, it announced on 11 October.

GSK’s chief executive officer, Andrew Witty, also outlined plans for a tuberculosis ‘compound library’, the first time a company has made public its proprietary chemicals with demonstrable activity against TB.

GSK will also give an additional £5 million to the Tres Cantos Open Lab, which allows independent researchers to use GSK facilities and resources for disease research. This doubles the funding it provides the lab, which was set up in Spain in 2010 and now runs 16 research projects.

Ahead of the announcement, Witty said GSK had a responsibility to do all it can to use its resources, knowledge and expertise to help tackle serious global health challenges.

“However, the complexity of the science and the scale of the challenge mean that we cannot solve these problems alone. We need to take a different approach—one focused on partnership, collaboration and openness,” he added.

One step towards openness, he said, was sharing more information on clinical trials with scientists. GSK posts summary information about each trial, and currently lists summaries of the results of around 4,500 trials. This includes both negative and positive results.

It now plans to create a system allowing researchers access to detailed anonymised patient-level data following submission of requests. These will be reviewed by an independent panel of experts for ‘scientific merit’ and if successful, access will be granted via a secure website.

A statement from GSK says it hopes this is a step towards a broader system “where researchers will be able to access data from clinical trials conducted by different sponsors”. It adds that it hopes this will “be of value in developing and catalysing” a wider approach.

The TB compound library will allow scientists access to the 200 ‘promising hits’ that could act as starting points for drugs against TB. These were identified in screens of GSK’s entire 200 million-strong pharmaceutical compound library.

Again, GSK hopes this will “encourage others to pursue a fully open approach to research in to a disease that causes around 1.5 million deaths around the world every year”.

Mark Walport, director of the Wellcome Trust, added that GSK’s “bold and innovative” moves set an example of “how the pharmaceutical industry must adapt to help drive forward medical advances”.