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New GSK-backed UK centre to publish data from drug targeting research

A new drug research centre is being set up in the UK in a bid to help drugs manufacturers develop better targeted medicines.

The Centre for Therapeutic Target Validation (CTTV) is being backed by pharmaceuticals giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute (WTSI). As many as 50 researchers from across the three organisations will work under the CTTV banner.

Dr Ewan Birney, associate director and senior scientist at the EMBL-EBI and interim head of the new CTTV, told the BBC's Today programme last week that the research to be undertaken at the new centre would aim to understand which molecules in the body drugs should be targeting.

Currently about 90% of all drug compounds that go through clinical trials do not make it to market. "This is often because the biological target for a drug is not well understood," the organisations said in a joint statement.

"CTTV scientists will combine their expertise to explore and interpret large volumes of data from genomics, proteomics, chemistry and disease biology," GSK, the EMBL-EBI and the WTSI, said. "The new approach will complement existing methods of target validation, including analysis of published research on known biological processes, preclinical animal modelling and studying disease epidemiology."

The organisations confirmed that "sequence data and information gathered within the CTTV" would be shared openly for others to use. Checks will be conducted to ensure the disclosures are in line with the research groups' data-sharing guidelines. Data and other information from CTTV projects may also be published in scientific journals.

"The pre-competitive nature of the centre is critical: the collaboration of EMBL-EBI and the Sanger Institute with GSK allows us to make the most of commercial R&D practice, but the data and information will be available to everyone," Birney said in the statement. "It is truly exciting to apply so many different areas of expertise, from data integration to genomics, to the challenge of creating better medicines."

Patrick Vallance, president of pharmaceuticals R&D at GSK, said that the collaborative initiative could speed up the development of "innovative new medicines".

"Target validation is one of the greatest challenges in drug discovery," Vallance said. "We need to understand better the mechanisms in our body related to disease to improve how we can develop the most effective medicines."

Professor Sir Mike Stratton, director of the WTSI, added: "Advances in genomics have led to a rapid increase in the availability of drug targets, providing enormous opportunity but also posing the problem of how we best convert this new knowledge into medicines. The challenge we now address is to identify those new targets with the greatest relevance to human disease which, in turn, will undoubtedly increase the speed and efficiency in which new medicines can be developed." 

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