Duncan Holmes 370.
(photo credit: Judy Siegel-Itzkovich)
A British delegation of senior pharmaceutical industry scientists are here this
week to establish cooperation with Israeli physicians and scientists who have
ideas for creating new medications.
They represent one of the world’s
largest pharmaceutical companies – Glaxo- SmithKline of the UK – which has added
Israel to its “Discovery Partnerships with Academia” program that it previously
set up with only a few US and European academic institutes.
past few days the delegation – hosted by the UK-Israel Tech Hub at the British
Embassy – has visited the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Sheba
Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, the Hadassit research and development arm of the
Hadassah Medical Organization in Jerusalem, Ben- Gurion University of the Negev
in Beersheba, Technion- Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa and other
institutions and met with dozens of local scientists.
The delegation is
led by Dr. Duncan Holmes, a bioorganic chemistry specialist at GSK for the last
20 years, who told The Jerusalem Post
on Tuesday that the first partnerships
with academia were launched two years ago.
“We recognize the huge
expertise of Israeli academics in research in this field,” said Holmes. “We are
interested in any disease – rare or common – especially if there is an effective
target or pathway for the research. There does not necessarily have to be a big
market for the drug. We want to see what the medicine might look like and how it
would affect patients,” he said.
“There must be the ability to identify
molecules [that would be the basis for the drug] and evaluate them in the
clinic. GSK must be able to contribute in order for the company to make a
partnership,” he said. “If we collaborate, we want key milestones in the process
and how to reach them; then we would agree who does what at each milestone and
pay the researcher for his work.”
So far, the GSK project has six
partnerships with European academic institutions.
Those selected as
partners will be funded by GSK from the idea to the production of the medicine.
The cooperative effort with Israelis is at a very early stages, Holmes
So far, the Discovery Partnerships with Academia program has
created cooperation abroad for developing treatments for the common skin disease
atopic dermatitis, acute pancreatitis and alpha 1-trypsin deficiency, a genetic
disorder that affects the liver, lungs and other organs, among
Holmes said the meetings here are “a first step in a journey, an
opportunity to see good research and discuss ideas for the future. The
researchers we met were very enthusiastic and engaging, and we are interested in
finding academics who have innovative ideas and are able to translate that into
developing medicine that will benefit patients.”
GSK, a science-led
global healthcare company based in the UK that researches and develops
prescription drugs, vaccines and healthcare products for oral, skin and other
health targets, has offices in more than 115 countries and 70 manufacturing
sites. In 2011, it spent almost 4 billion pounds ($6.05 billion) on research
into new medications.