Université de Sherbrooke Investigator and GSK Sign Collaboration Deal to Develop Drug for Iron Overload Disorders

Project Demonstrates Promise of GSK’s Discovery Fast Track Challenge

September 28, 2015
Quebec, Canada

GSK and the Université de Sherbrooke in Quebec, Canada, announce the signing of a collaboration agreement to develop a new medicine that could potentially lead to new treatment options for patients with iron overload disorders (IOD) such as beta-thalassemia or hereditary hemochromatosis.

The agreement creates a joint project between Richard Leduc, PhD, doctorate in clinical sciences and research professor at the Institut de pharmacologie de Sherbrooke of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences and Research Center of the Centre hospitalier universitaire de Sherbrooke, and GSK’s Discovery Partnerships with Academia (DPAc) team to start compound optimization and, ultimately, to jointly develop a new medicine. Dr. Leduc’s collaboration with DPAc is the first to stem from the Discovery Fast Track Challenge, a novel approach to drug discovery by GSK.

“GSK recognizes the importance of investing in strong science and innovation and we are committed to making significant contributions to pre-clinical, clinical and medical research and development,” said Rav Kumar, Vice-President, R&D Operations/Business Development for GSK. “This agreement reflects not only on Dr. Leduc and his team’s achievements, but also on the incredible environment in Canada, and in Quebec specifically, for fostering innovative life science research.”

Started in 2013 as a way to rapidly uncover the most promising hypotheses in academia for drug discovery research, GSK’s Discovery Fast Track Challenge invites academic scientists from North America and Europe to submit their target or pathway of interest together with a clear therapeutic hypothesis. The submissions are carefully reviewed and up to 30 finalists are selected for evaluation by a group of GSK scientists with expertise in drug development, high throughput screening and the specific biology and/or disease of the submission. Academic scientists selected for advancement then work closely with Molecular Discovery Research Teams to test their hypotheses on potential disease pathways or targets against GSK’s extensive compound library. If early lead compounds are identified that have the desired biological activity and are of sufficient potency and quality to form the starting point for a research program, the winning investigators may be offered an opportunity to participate in the DPAc program.

Dr. Leduc’s journey

Dr. Leduc participated in the first Discovery Fast Track Challenge. His proposal centered on a recently discovered key role for an enzyme involved in the control of iron homeostasis. Dr. Leduc postulated that an inhibitor of this enzyme could provide an effective means of reducing iron overload.

GSK formed a multi-disciplinary team with Dr. Leduc and his team to perform screening using both high throughput screening (HTS) and encoded library technologies (ELT). With Dr. Leduc and his team’s expertise in the target, biology and disease, and GSK’s drug discovery expertise, the joint team went from working on expression of the enzyme to discovering early lead compounds in less than a year. The screening yielded several highly potent inhibitors.

“We always felt that the GSK scientists listened to us, problems were quickly solved, and a course of action was established,” Leduc said. “There was a very clear objective and goals. We all knew the stakes and we worked together to find solutions and alternatives when challenges presented themselves.” “Through Discovery Fast Track, we realized that this program represented a triumvirate: a strong biological hypothesis from Richard Leduc, tractable compounds identified in GSK’s high throughput screen, and, importantly, a collaboration [with Leduc and the Université de Sherbrooke] ready for a long-term relationship to develop therapeutics for the benefit of patients worldwide,” said Carolyn Buser, Global Head of DPAc, the challenge’s sponsor. “Together with GSK’s expertise, the Faculty will strengthen its position as a leader in developing tomorrow’s medicine. This agreement is a testament to the quality of our installations and the extensive knowledge of our research teams that is now recognized worldwide. The combined expertise of our two organizations will undoubtedly allow maximum use of our resources and certainly lead to tangible benefits for the public,” commented Jean-Pierre Perreault, Vice-Dean for Research and Graduate Studies at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences of the Université de Sherbrooke.

Université de Sherbrooke – The Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) of the Université de Sherbrooke is rooted in and committed to the communities where it continues to evolve. Its mission is to provide training, conduct research, and disseminate knowledge while fostering critical and creative thinking with the goal of improving the health and well-being of individuals and populations. The FMHS is the first Canadian and first French-language faculty of medicine to be recognized by the World Health Organization as a Collaborating Centre for the training of human resources. With its pedagogical teaching innovations which have earned it an enviable reputation, and its five centers and thirty research teams, over the years it has become a major faculty on the Québec, Canadian and international stage. The FMHS offers more than 100 study programs in medicine, nursing, rehabilitation and many fundamental research programs. For further information, please visit: http://www.usherbrooke.ca/medecine/

GSK – 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. For further information please visit www.gsk.com.

Cautionary statement regarding forward-looking statements

GSK cautions investors that any forward-looking statements or projections made by GSK, including those made in this announcement, are subject to risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results to differ materially from those projected. Such factors include, but are not limited to, those described under Item 3.D 'Risk factors' in the company's Annual Report on Form 20-F for 2014.