GlaxoSmithKlineGlaxoSmithKline plc (GSK) and Yale University have established a drug discovery research collaboration to design a potential new class of medicines that degrade disease-causing proteins. The collaboration combines GSK's expertise in medicinal chemistry with Yale's pioneering work on proteolysis targeting chimeric molecules or PROTACs. PROTAC technology guides disease-causing proteins to a cell's "garbage disposal" where they can be destroyed. Mutant or higher-than normal amounts of these proteins typically drive disease progression in areas such as oncology, inflammation and infections; yet many cannot be tackled by traditional ways of making drugs.

Under the agreement, a joint research team will work to show that PROTACs can be turned into future medicines. GSK will then have the right to use this technology for multiple disease-causing proteins across all therapy areas. For each protein-degrading drug that is discovered and developed, Yale will be eligible for milestone and royalty payments. Several collaborations between GSK and UK-based universities have been announced that also entail such joint working towards common milestones, combined with an element of risk sharing by the parties. This partnership differs through its scope around a potential new class of medicines and because of its association with a US academic centre.

"This partnership is exploring a new way for promising, but unproven therapeutic approaches to jump from the academic lab more quickly into the early stage pharmaceutical pipeline," said Kris Famm, head of GSK’s Protein Degradation effort, who will lead the programme with Craig Crews, the Lewis B. Cullman Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, and Professor of Chemistry and Pharmacology at Yale. "The ground-breaking work Craig and his team have done may allow us to tackle a whole host of disease-causing proteins that were previously out of reach for medicines, and it is exciting to work together to try to realise that promise."

The collaboration has been endorsed by GSK's Discovery Investment Board, the panel of internal and external experts who make funding decisions on GSK's small biotech-like Discovery Performance Units (DPUs). The GSK team working on the collaboration includes a number of scientists from areas of drug discovery that are no longer being progressed following last year's DPU review. Collaboration with academia and other external partners is fundamental to GSK's strategic priorities of growing a diversified, global business and delivering more products of value. The program announced today reinforces GSK R&D's emphasis on seeking out the best science, wherever it may be, and collaborating with external partners.

The collaborative work with GSK and Yale is already underway, with the goal of showing crucial proof of principle for this technology by the end of 2012. "The relationship between the pharmaceutical industry and academia is changing," Crews said, "and this collaboration offers a new paradigm for how pharma companies and academic researchers can benefit from working more closely together."

GlaxoSmithKline - one of the world's leading research-based pharmaceutical and healthcare companies - is committed to improving the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer.