Glasgow joins MRC, GSK and four other UK universities to crack difficult disease areas

Issued: Wed, 15 Jul 2015 10:00:00 BST

The University of Glasgow is joining forces with the Medical Research Council (MRC), GSK and four other universities to collaborate on a unique open innovation research initiative aimed at improving scientists’ understanding of inflammatory diseases that present a serious burden to patients.

The Experimental Medicine Initiative to Explore New Therapies (EMINENT) network will bring together teams of researchers from the Universities of Glasgow, Cambridge,  Newcastle, Imperial College London and University College London, with GSK researchers to study the fundamental biological mechanisms responsible for a range of inflammatory diseases.

It is hoped that combining the disease biology expertise of the academic scientists with GSK’s drug development expertise and resources will lead to breakthroughs in understanding that could accelerate the development of innovative treatments for patients.

Drug development is a lengthy, costly and risky process, with the majority of treatments failing in clinical trials and never reaching patients as medicines. This is because the biological processes that underlie many diseases are still not fully understood.

By gaining a better understanding of the inflammatory process in diseases such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), inflammatory arthritis and fibrosis, the collaboration aims to improve the success rate for discovering new treatments for these diseases. 

Through the unique EMINENT network, MRC funding of up to £8m over five years will support the academic costs and these will be matched with GSK in-kind contributions, including access to a portfolio of currently available medicines, experimental compounds, screening facilities and the company’s drug discovery and development in-house expertise.

The initiative aims to support up to ten experimental medicine projects over five years. The academic research teams that are awarded funding will work alongside their industry colleagues at both GSK and university facilities, with a view to building a legacy of expertise in translational and experimental human research across academia and industry.

The MRC anticipates that the network will grow beyond the first five academic partners. Information and new discoveries will be communicated promptly across the network and beyond in a spirit of open innovation. This will enable breakthroughs in understanding to be applied across a spectrum of diseases, maximising the potential of the initiative to bring real benefits to patients.

Professor Iain McInnes said: “We’re delighted that the University of Glasgow’s world-leading inflammation medicine research has been recognised once more with the invitation to become a founding partner of the EMINENT network.

“Our College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences has developed a very fruitful relationship with the GSK over the years. The collaboration that now brings MRC and GSK together with outstanding academic partner is very exciting. EMINENT will allow us to continue to work towards the development of new treatments for inflammatory diseases – this in turn will allow us in due course to make a difference in the lives of our patients.”

Professor Sir John Savill, Chief Executive at the Medical Research Council, said: “Despite major progress made over the last 20 years in many disease areas, some hard-to-treat conditions still carry high morbidity and mortality continue to have few or no treatment options.  Addressing these challenges successfully requires close, flexible, collaboration across a range of disciplines with complementary methodological expertise and disease understanding which is why initiatives such as this are so important to the MRC. We believe this innovative approach could be applied in other areas to combine the work of academia and industry.”

GSK’s president of pharmaceuticals R&D, Patrick Vallance, said: “At GSK, we believe we have much to learn from scientists outside our own walls and vice-versa. By sharing our resources and research during the early stages of research we can stimulate innovation within the scientific community, strengthen our understanding of human disease and accelerate the development of new treatments for patients. We need to embrace opportunities to work together and share information about our successes and failures.

“The MRC’s EMINENT initiative is a great way for us to do precisely this, allowing us to work alongside scientists from five top UK universities to drive forward our collective understanding of inflammatory disease, and we’re confident this unique approach will make us better able to develop innovative new treatments in the future.”

An independent panel of experts will assess the applications submitted by EMINENT collaborators. Projects will be assessed against the same criteria as any other MRC-funded research, based on the quality of the science. An oversight group, the Joint Steering Committee (JSC), reporting to the MRC, will ensure robust governance and alignment with MRC’s strategic priorities. 

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