Glaxo to share malaria drug data

Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) will release 13,500 malaria drug candidates into the public domain as part of its ‘open innovation’ agenda, it announced on 20 January 2010.

Chief executive Andrew Witty outlined the company’s strategy for increasing its intellectual property flexibility and altering its business model to tackle neglected tropical diseases.

“We’re trying to identify a more pluralistic approach to how we might solve very difficult problems,” he said.

“We need to be much more … open minded and be prepared to try new things,” Witty told a meeting at the New York Academy of Sciences, United States.

Under the plans any researcher or company will have access to the chemical structures of and associated data about more than 13,500 compounds shown to have activity against Plasmodium falciparum, the most dangerous malaria parasite. They would be free to use this information provided they were working towards tackling malaria in least developed countries.

Five GSK scientists screened their two-million-compound library by hand to find the shortlist.

The company will also create an ‘open lab’ at its neglected diseases research and development (R&D) facility in Spain. There, up to 60 researchers will be able to use GSK infrastructure and expertise to carry out their own neglected disease research projects, with the company providing a total of US$8 million in seed funding.

Ian Boulton of TropMed Pharma Consulting, which works with the pharmaceutical industry on expanding neglected diseases R&D, described the open lab initiative as “groundbreaking” and hoped other companies active in the malaria field, such as Novartis and Sanofi Aventis, would follow suit.

But he said: “Drug discovery is a long process and both the organisations involved and GSK need to have worked out how the projects can be carried forward once their time in the ‘open lab’ is over”.

“The malaria community needs to develop a system to use this data in an intelligent manner. It would be a shame if there was no coordination or information sharing on who will be working on what classes of compounds,” he added.

Mohga Kamal-Yanni, a senior health policy adviser at Oxfam, said: “This action is going beyond their own R&D decisions to encourage others. They have gone further than opening libraries, by actually doing the screening themselves.”

Witty said that GSK is committed to continuing malaria R&D. “We have five or six malaria compounds in clinical or preclinical testing.”

Last year GSK announced it would allow royalty-free access to its patents and knowhow on drugs for neglected diseases (see Glaxo patent rethink sparks debate), as well as ploughing 20 per cent of profits made in least developed countries back into their health systems and cutting drug prices.

However, no other drug company joined the patent pool.

Source: SciDev.Net

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Philips’ intelligent pill technology

Philips is conducting trials of a tiny computer that takes the form of a pill that can be swallowed. The device will dispense medicines, and can be controlled within the human body.

The iPill (intelligent pill) is designed to release medicine in controlled bursts inside the body at the command of a doctor communicating wirelessly with the device.

“If a doctor sees an adverse reaction, a signal could be sent to override the iPill and not distribute any more of the drug,” says Steve Klink,  a senior communications manager at Philips Research.

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In the form of an 11 x 26 mm capsule, the iPill incorporates a microprocessor, battery, pH sensor, temperature sensor, RF wireless transceiver, fluid pump and drug reservoir. It communicates via its wireless transceiver to a control unit outside the body.

Localized drug delivery is performed by the iPill’s internal pump under the control of the microprocessor, allowing accurate control of the drug delivery profile. The pump is a screw-driven piston powered by an internal silver-oxide battery, which has enough power to last for 48 hours. Examples of possible delivery profiles include a burst, progressive release or a multi-location dosing.

Pre-planning can be used to determine the target location for drug delivery and hence to define a control program for the microprocessor. This program is loaded into the iPill before it is swallowed, where it controls execution of the drug delivery profile in response to pH measurements taken as the iPill moves through the gut. Further data from the iPill, such as its temperature measurements, are reported wirelessly to an external control unit, which records data and may also transmit additional control signals back to the iPill.

The iPill is currently being tested in animals, but human volunteers have taken it to make sure the device can pass easily through the body.

Source: http://www.research.philips.com