GSK announces Australian winners of research challenge

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Researchers who identified potential targets for new medicines for acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) and the autoimmune disease, lupus, have been announced as the two Australian winners of the GSK Discovery Fast Track Challenge.

The winners will be granted access to GSK’s state-of-the-art research resources, expertise and compound library to screen their targets to identify molecules that could potentially become new medicines.'

The GSK Discovery Fast Track Challenge was designed to help turn innovative research into treatments for patients faster, by fostering greater collaboration between academia and industry.

Professor Tom Gonda and Professor Richard D’Andrea from the University of South Australia will work with GSK scientists to test the company's compound libraries against a target protein that plays a role in a number of different cancers. It has been shown to be critical in acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) and the researchers believe the discovery of a molecule that could block the function of this protein could ultimately lead to new therapies.

“It’s an exciting area of research and it’s terrific to have access to the range of GSK technologies and expertise so we can use them to identify candidate drugs against our target protein,” said Professor Gonda. “This is a very promising line of enquiry in regard to new treatments, especially given AML currently has such a poor prognosis, with less than 30 per cent of patients surviving for five years after diagnosis.”

Dr Kim Good-Jacobson from the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute is also a winner of the 2018 Discovery Fast Track Challenge and is looking at how to target and destroy antibody producing cells that cause autoimmune diseases.

“For the past three years we have been working on a target that is able to recognise the antibody producing cells that cause autoimmune diseases like lupus. Our next challenge is to discover an inhibitor for it,” said Dr Good-Jacobson.

“By having access to GSK libraries, we can immediately begin screening against our target. Through this process we hope to determine a molecule that may become the basis for a drug to help patients living with lupus.”

The winning proposals were selected from over 80 entries based on their potential to impact diseases where there is an unmet medical need and where patients would strongly benefit from new therapeutic interventions.

This year’s challenge winners will also receive up to $75,000 in funding to support the collaboration from GSK’s Discovery Partnerships with Academia (DPAc) program.

According to Dr Andrew Weekes, medical director for GSK Australia, “I am delighted to congratulate our winners of this year’s Australian Challenge. The Challenge has been extremely successful in identifying exciting new collaborative opportunities that may ultimately lead to innovative medicines to tackle unmet patient need. This program has also enhanced our ability to reach out and make contacts with leading academics.”