GSK and 23andMe undergo a four-year collaboration to bring new drugs to the market

By Catherine Sturman
GSK and 23andMe has unveiled a new four-year collaboration where the companies will focus on new research and develop initiatives, in order to develop n...

GSK and 23andMe has unveiled a new four-year collaboration where the companies will focus on new research and develop initiatives, in order to develop new innovative new medicines and potential cures, using human genetics as the basis for discovery.

The collaboration will combine 23andMe’s large-scale genetic resources and advanced data science skills, with the scientific and medical knowledge and commercialisation expertise of GSK. The company has also made a $300mn equity investment in 23andMe.

The deal comes with an option of extending to a fifth year under which GSK will become 23andMe’s exclusive collaborator for drug target discovery programmes.

One of the leading consumer genetics and research companies, 23andme has enabled consumers to gain a greater understanding of their genomic makeup. Hailed as one of the smartest companies in 2017 by MIT Technology Review, it has also featured as Fast Company's #2 Most Innovative Health Company in 2018.

Over 80% of its customers consented to participate in research and contribute their information to a dynamic database, creating the world’s largest genetic and phenotypic resource.

GSK is now set to take full advantage of such valuable data, bringing extensive drug discovery and development capabilities across a broad range of diseases and modalities, including small molecule, biopharmaceuticals and cell and gene therapies.

Applying its world-class technologies, including access to additional data sources, in-house target validation and genetics expertise, the company will utilise its manufacturing, commercial operations and scale to support partner activities across research and development.

Dr Hal Barron, Chief Scientific Officer and President R&D, GSK, said; “We are excited about this unique collaboration as we know that drug targets with genetic validation have a significantly higher chance of ultimately demonstrating benefit for patients and becoming medicines.

“Partnering with 23andMe, an organisation whose vision and capabilities are transforming the understanding of how genes influence health, will help to shift our research and development organisation to be ‘driven by genetics’, and increase the impact GSK can have on patients.”

Anne Wojcicki, CEO and Co-Founder of 23andMe, added; “This collaboration will enable us to deliver on what many customers have been asking for -- cures or treatments for diseases. By leveraging the genetic and phenotypic information provided by consenting 23andMe customers and combining it with GSK’s incredible expertise and resources in drug discovery, we believe we can more quickly make treating and curing diseases a reality.”

Focusing on translating genetic and phenotypic data into R&D activities, the companies will seek to undertake the following:

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  1. Improve target selection to allow safer, more effective ‘precision’ medicines to be discovered. Genetic data can significantly improve our understanding of diseases, their pathways and mechanisms, supporting the design and development of more targeted medicines. Use of genetic data in selecting drug targets can increase both the probability of success in a particular indication and avoid unwanted safety risks.
  2. Support identification of patient subgroups that are more likely to respond to targeted treatments. Scale is critical for the detection of genetic effects in smaller subsets of diseases and patients.

Customer’s aggregate and de-identified data could help enable the discovery of a significant number of novel associations from a diverse range of people, which would not otherwise be possible.

     3.The companies will use 23andMe's rich database and proprietary statistical analytics to fuel drug target discovery, with the goal of jointly discovering novel targets that can progress into development.

A joint GSK-23andMe drug discovery team will seek to identify new targets and prioritise based on strength of the biological hypothesis, possibility to find a medicine, and clinical opportunity.

23andMe currently has a portfolio of early stage therapeutic research programmes across a wide range of disease indications, which will be assessed for inclusion. GSK will contribute its LRRK2 inhibitor, which is currently in preclinical development as a potential treatment for Parkinson’s disease. This programme is expected to significantly progress by leveraging 23andMe’s large base of consented customers who are aware of their LRRK2 variant status as a result of 23andMe’s FDA-authorised genetic health reports.

Together, GSK and 23andMe are expected to more effectively target and rapidly recruit patients with defined LRRK2 mutations in order to reach clinical proof of concept.

All activities within the collaboration will initially be co-funded (50%/50%), with either company having certain rights to reduce its funding share for any collaboration programme. GSK will also have the right to work with 23andMe to analyse 23andMe’s database for validation of GSK’s existing therapeutic portfolio as well as leverage 23andMe’s capabilities for clinical trial recruitment. Both GSK and 23andMe will share in the proceeds from new treatments and medicines arising from the collaboration.

All findings will be published throughout the collaboration to provide transparency and fully support future research.


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