Contact: Alexander Shtifman
Phone: 617-713-8989
alex...@childrens.harvard.edu

The first wave of research collaborations are rolling out under the IDI-GSK Research Alliance. After a meeting of the joint steering committee in December, five research grants and nine fellowships were awarded, cementing the scientific relationship between the two institutions.
The innovative alliance, announced last summer, combines world-class science by IDI investigators with the immense resources of GSK, one of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies. GSK has pledged $25 million to the program over five years, to support research projects with the goal of developing new treatments for inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and psoriasis.
Under the agreement, researchers at both institutions developed collaborative grant proposals in the areas of immunology and inflammation. The joint steering committee, made up equally of IDI researchers and GSK scientists, selected the best proposals for funding.
The newly named grantees include Senior Investigators Judy Lieberman and Klaus Rajewsky, who received joint funding to develop a better understating of the role of microRNAs in immune cell function. Another joint grant, to Investigator Motomu Shimaoka and Senior Investigator Timothy Springer will support their studies of integrin adhesion receptors on immune cells.
The Shimaoka/Springer effort involves basic studies to understand the molecular shape of the integrins, and a translational effort to search for potential drugs that would act by controlling integrin activity. “We have done a lot of work on the structure of integrins," Shimaoka said. “One of the big advantages of this collaboration is that now we can access GSK’s small molecule library and their technology to efficiently screen thousands of potential drug compounds.” Such molecules may be useful as drugs to selectively depress harmful immune responses or boost beneficial reactions.
Shimaoka and Springer have been busy meeting with their new collaborators at the GSK-Boston research facility in Waltham. The scientist-to-scientist connection between the two institutions is a unique aspect of the alliance, and one that both sides welcome. “This is a real scientific collaboration, where we meet face to face with GSK's excellent and enthusiastic researchers. I am quite excited about that,” Shimaoka said.
An important part of the research alliance is the fellowship program, under which nine junior researchers received support to pursue promising new avenues of inquiry. Dr. Eun Jeong Park, a senior fellow in Shimaoka’s lab, was one recipient, and he will study novel mechanisms of integrin deactivation on immune cells. “The fellowship will help him develop his own project, and that will really help him to jump start his career towards an independent scientist,” said Shimaoka.
Other senior investigators who received grants include Anjana Rao, Anne Goldfeld and Ulrich von Andrian to pursue projects aimed at understanding fundamental immune processes. In each case, IDI researchers will work closely with their GSK counterparts to speed the translation of laboratory work into clinical application.
The first round of awards is just the beginning, but it marks an important milestone in the partnership, says Ryan M. Dietz, Director of the IDI Office of Technology Development. “The awarding of the first round of grants shows we have established a solid relationship that’s beginning to bear fruit.”