UK seeks cooperation with pharmaceutical industry

British delegation of senior pharmaceutical industry scientists are in Israel to establish ties with Israeli scientists.

Duncan Holmes 370 (photo credit: Judy Siegel-Itzkovich)
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.
During the 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 said.
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 others.
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.