Contact: Alexander Shtifman
Phone: 617-713-8989

The Immune Disease Institute and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) are gearing up to launch their five-year, $25 million research collaboration, aimed at speeding the development of new medicines to fight autoimmune and inflammatory disease. The partnership, first announced June 3, will commence on July 28 with the first meeting of a newly formed joint steering committee, followed by a kick off reception for IDI investigators and invited guests.

The innovative collaboration will combine world-class immunological research by IDI investigators with the immense resources of GSK, one of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies. The goal is to develop new treatments for inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and psoriasis.

"The IDI scientists are extremely excited about this tremendous opportunity to collaborate with scientists at GSK," said Frederick Alt, Ph.D., IDI's Scientific Director and the Charles A. Janeway Professor of Pediatrics and Professor of Genetics, Harvard Medical School. "This unique scientific alliance should significantly enhance our efforts to push forward with ground-breaking research in immunology and inflammation and, in particular, it should enhance our ability to translate basic discoveries into the clinical setting."

Under the program, researchers at both institutions will develop collaborative grant proposals in the areas of immunology and inflammation. A joint steering committee, made up equally of IDI researchers and GSK scientists, will select the best proposals for funding. GSK has pledged $5 million per year for 5 years to the program. An important part of the agreement will be a fellowship program, where GSK will support the work of outstanding IDI researchers.

The collaborative agreement with GSK is unusual in that it encourages direct interaction between scientists from both organizations, according to Ryan M. Dietz, the Director of the IDI Office of Technology Development. "It is common for pharmaceutical companies to financially support research in not-for-profit institutions like IDI, but this new alliance is unique in that it encourages researchers from both IDI and GSK to work together. That direct scientist-to-scientist connection gives us a more effective way to link our new technologies and scientific innovations to the developmental capacity of GSK, and hopefully speed up the translation of basic findings to new medicines," Dietz said.

In addition, Dietz said, the alliance is attractive in part because it ensures academic freedom. In the agreement, GSK receives the right to negotiate first for many of the new technologies discovered by IDI scientists during the term of the agreement, but it does not preclude investigators from collaborating with others. "We have gone to great lengths to ensure that our investigators are able to explore collaborations that are best suited to reach their scientific goals." Dietz said.

Commenting on the collaboration, Jose Carlos Gutierrez-Ramos, Ph.D., Senior Vice President and head of the Immuno-Inflammation Center of Excellence for Drug Discovery of GSK, stated, "We are tremendously excited that we are able to work with IDI scientists, and share their passion, innovation and ground-breaking technologies. This agreement fits perfectly with our strategy to pursue scientific excellence and technologies both internally and externally. The best science coming from IDI and the best drug discovery capabilities from GSK will produce transformative medicines that will change patients' lives."

"Gutierrez-Ramos has very good scientific taste," says Timothy Springer, Ph.D., an IDI Senior Investigator and the Latham Family Professor of Pathology at Harvard Medical School. "He is very familiar with the work of IDI researchers. He knows that a lot of new medicines have previously originated at IDI and that we have a lot of new technology and experimental results that could to lead to further drugs."

These shared goals and interests are apparent in Springer's own research, which previously led to the development of two medications for psoriasis that are currently on the market. Amevive, originally developed by Biogen, and Genentech's Raptiva both work by calming the overactive immune cells that produce the painful skin disease.

To move toward fully implementing the research program, the IDI has named Alt, Springer and Judy Lieberman, M.D., Ph.D., IDI Senior Investigator and professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, to the joint steering committee. At the upcoming first meeting, the committee will work to establish the structure for accepting and evaluating grant and fellowship applications. Further information on the grant program and application process will be made available to all IDI investigators through an intranet posting.

The kick-off reception on July 28 will introduce the joint steering committee to IDI investigators as well as local government officials involved in Governor Deval Patrick's recent $1 billion Life Sciences Initiative.