GSK and 23andMe undergo a four-year collaboration to bring new drugs to the market
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:
- Anthem, Inc., Samsung and American Well collaborate to deliver telehealth services
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- Boston Scientific acquires Claret Medical, Inc.
- 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.
- 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.
Driving sustainability in medical device production
Environmental protection and stewardship are rapidly rising to the top of the corporate agenda and medical device businesses are no exception. The healthcare sectors of the United States, Australia, Canada, and England combined emit an estimated 748 million metric tons of greenhouse gases each year, an output greater than the carbon emissions of all but six nations worldwide. In order to curb this situation various European standards have been introduced.
The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE); Restriction on Hazardous Substances (RoHS); Registration, Evaluation, and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH) and the Energy Using Products (EuP) regulations have all significantly altered manufacturing processes, specific labelling, compliance with disposal restrictions, and creation of instructions for end-of-life management and recycling.
At the moment many medical devices are currently exempt from these regulations but several directives, including RoHS and WEEE, are in the process of being reviewed and could be applicable in future. This is especially relevant for devices that are ‘connected’ and have a digital monitoring component which then brings them under the regulatory purview of authorities that govern devices with electronic components.
Safety, Usability and Sustainability
While medical device manufacturers have been working to respond to increasing demand for environmental sustainability from the market, they also have to contend with a key element of their mission: to ensure safety and usability to healthcare workers and patients. Parenteral and other invasive devices are strictly regulated to help reduce the risk of Healthcare Acquired Infection which typically runs as high as 5% and 8% in most developed countries, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. As a result, they typically contain disposable single-use plastic elements.
At the same time, many hospitals and purchasing organisations have started to recognise that sustainable purchasing practices play a pivotal role in reducing costs over time. Many GPOs have appointed and empowered Senior Directors of Environmentally Preferred Sourcing who are successfully implementing the sustainable purchasing business case. In addition global pharmaceutical companies are increasingly creating senior positions with sustainability objectives as key to the role.
Medical device disposal is a particularly burning issue; generally carried out through incineration in the EU, it typically releases nitrous oxide, as well as known carcinogens including polychlorinated biphenyls, furans and dioxins. Some of the strategies trialled by manufacturers to reduce waste matter destined to incineration include sterilisation and reprocessing.
Sterilisation, however, falls short on the environmental front, and may consume more energy and produce more emissions than incineration itself. In the United States for example, 50% of all sterile medical devices are sterilised with ethylene oxide but since this method releases harmful emissions, the US Food and Drug Administration is now encouraging the development of new methods or technologies. Many other established sterilisation methods use glutaraldehyde that is not only harmful to the environment but also tends to be regulated by strict usage and disposal rules such as COSSH guidelines.
Focus on Recycling
The outlook on recycling is changing significantly thanks to new research and technologies enabling, for example, monomer extraction. Recycled polymers can be broken down to their constituent monomers promoting an almost limitless recyclability of some polymers. In addition to this, Polyvinyl chloride (PVC), renewable polyethylene and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) can be recycled several times without losing critical properties.
Reducing the impact of packaging can also significantly reduce the materials that need to be dealt with through either waste or recycling. Packaging manufacturers are decreasing packaging volume by favouring sealed trays instead of pouches, laser-etching instructions directly on to the tray where regulation permits it, or reducing the number of components required overall. In addition to this, for recycling plans to be successful it important to have a full understanding of the practices surrounding device use and to establish, where possible, closed loop recycling systems that recover the waste materials from hospitals or patients and bring them back into the recycling process.
Sustainable Manufacturing: Technology and Research
Greater employment of fast degrading plastics or material from other sources is a key strategy to reduce harmful pollutants both at production and disposal stage. Bio-based materials can in fact offset the carbon emitted during processing as the monomer source grows, and a growing range of sources for bio based monomers -such as wood pulp or sugar cane- is available. However, when assessing the most suitable material for a part, the entire lifecycle of the product needs to be considered. For example: bio-degradable polymers can contaminate a recycling stream and emit methane when incinerated.
The use of environmentally friendly materials should also be supported by an increase in clean renewable energy sources. Lower energy consumption means fewer carbon emissions but also financial savings, making this an appealing measure for manufacturers. New technologies are proving a major gamechanger on this front, helping manufacturers marry their environmental stewardship with cost savings and efficiency. 3D printing, for example, can help develop optimum product moulds more quickly, refining production parameters to minimise raw materials volumes and maximising output productivity.
Similarly, ‘digital twin’ production software uses inline sensors to create a virtual, real-time mirror of the production environment to enable inline refinements. The objective is to achieve “zero defect”, waste-free manufacturing. In addition to this, LEAN manufacturing methodologies are already helping to optimise inventory management and reduce overproduction.
Sustainability by Design
It is increasingly clear that effective environmental sustainability in the medical device sector cannot exist without a full view of the product life cycle from concept development, material selection, design and engineering to manufacturing, packaging, transportation, sales, use, and end-of-life disposal. These evaluations are typically made for factors such as manufacturing efficiency, time to market, or safety and regulatory compliance, packaging and transportation costs, but should be extended to energy efficiency and environmental impact by means such as life cycle analysis.
In addition to this, with devices rapidly becoming more digitally connected, developers need to be aware that the costs of disposable electronics would simply not be viable, or indeed acceptable in the light of electronics disposal regulations. Design therefore should focus on creating a simple, repeatable interface between the two component sections so as not to impair the functionality or efficacy. As reducing waste and harmful emissions continues to exert businesses and governments globally, the medical devices industry cannot stand by. The environmental but also commercial implications of inaction are too serious and the array of solutions now available is exciting and diverse.