Promises made to be kept

Today our CEO, Sir Andrew Witty, gave a speech in London, where he outlined measures to further advance our commitment towards greater openness, transparency, and collaboration. These are terms that are used often in business. So often, in my opinion, that they tend to lose any meaning.

So to put a little meat on these bony words, Andrew talked about building on the signs of progress we've seen as a result of our "open innovation" approach to R&D, designed to help develop new solutions for the world's most serious health challenges.

Over the past few years, we've made fundamental changes to our business model to become more open to sharing intellectual property and knowledge, and to forming partnerships to help stimulate more R&D into diseases that most affect the world's poorest people. Now, we'll set out new measures to help develop new and faster-acting treatments for tuberculosis (TB), a huge global health need where R&D has been at an impasse, and to support independent research into diseases of the developing world.

The big news out of this announcement is:

·         GSK's TB compound library to be made freely available--More than two million compounds were scanned for any that may inhibit tuberculosis (TB) bacteria and we'll publish in a scientific journal the results of this process (about 200 promising hits that could act as new starting points for the discovery of new medicines for TB). This is the first time a pharmaceutical company will make public its own proprietary compounds which have demonstrated signs of activity against TB. It is hoped this will encourage others to pursue a fully open approach to research in to a disease that causes around 1.5 million deaths around the world every year.

·         An additional £5m ($8m) funding awarded to GSK's Open Lab--In a further move to foster the sharing of scientific knowledge and learning across the scientific community, GSK will double its funding for our Open Lab at Tres Cantos, Spain. Two years since the Open Lab was established, there are now 16 research projects.

·         Detailed data from GSK clinical trials to be made available--We are fully committed to sharing information about our clinical trials, and post summary information about each trial we begin and shares the summary results of all of our clinical trials, whether positive or negative, on a website accessible to all. We will also create a system that enables researchers to access the detailed anonymous patient-level data that sit behind the results of clinical trials of our approved medicines and discontinued investigational medicines.

Not surprisingly, there was a lot of chatter about this announcement online today.

Katie Thomas (@katie_thomas) of the New York Times wrote "Glaxo Opens the Door to Data on Research." Matthew Herper (@matthewherperof Forbes wrote about the announcement--"With Transparency Pledge, Glaxo Makes Promises No Other Drug Company Has"--and then tweeted it. This started a rich discussion about our motivation for doing this. Sally Church (@MaverickNY) wrote "@matthewherper it doesn't jive with the general ethos really. If it truly changes things then great but... leopards, spots etc." There were a number of tweeters who had similar skepticism.

And we get it. Trust me. The pharma industry, and GSK, are often criticized, no matter how genuine our intentions. This is something we know we need to overcome.  

But I think Andrew outlined our motivations best:

As a truly global healthcare company, I believe we have a responsibility to do all we can at GSK to use our resources, knowledge and expertise to help tackle serious global health challenges. However, the complexity of the science and the scale of the challenge mean that we cannot solve these problems alone. We need to take a different approach--one focused on partnership, collaboration and openness. By being more open with our clinical trial data, we also hope to help further scientific understanding. I am pleased with the progress we have made so far to evolve our business model but we recognise there is more we can do and the new initiatives outlined today will enable us to build on this work.

We expect to have our feet held to the fire on this, to ensure that we deliver on our promises. Let's keep the conversation going.