Working inside the business to achieve social change

Photo courtesy of The Aspen Institute

Photo courtesy of The Aspen Institute

I recently returned from Aspen, Colorado, where I attended the first meeting of the Aspen Institute’s First Mover Fellows. The venue and program were outstanding, but by far the most impressive aspect was the cohort – an amazing and diverse group full of passion, energy, and optimism. We got to know one another and discussed ways to drive and maintain innovative change in organizations. Consistent with the philosophy of the Aspen Institute, there was an emphasis on long-term vision and purpose.

As part of the one-year fellowship, each Fellow pursues an innovation project within their organization. My project aims to better address medical needs through improved preclinical target validation, the foundation on which we base our GSK drug discovery programs. The lion’s share of targets for new medicines comes from academia. It is in the patient’s (and therefore GSK’s) interest to stimulate basic academic research. While academics typically have deep biological expertise, they frequently lack high quality small molecule compounds which are essential research tools in preclinical target validation.

The fresh air and outstanding venue in Aspen set an ideal scene for the Fellows to meet and discuss their projects.

The fresh air and outstanding venue in Aspen set an ideal scene for the Fellows to meet and discuss their projects.

I would like to see us do much more compound sharing in an open and precompetitive manner. The broad use of quality compounds in academia will lead to better decisions about which drug targets to pursue in GSK, a decision that has been described as one of the most important factors in clinical attrition. Beyond better positioning ourselves for more successful drug discovery, open access to common research tools will:

  1. facilitate robust science, increasing the ability to reproduce between laboratories
  2. enable experiments which otherwise would not be possible if the compounds remained within GSK.

Despite the potential value of compound sharing, there remain some concerns around intellectual property. Over the next year, I hope to identify ways that GSK can openly share compounds that at the same time will mitigate risks.

I’m looking forward to continuing work on my project and learning more from my First Mover colleagues when we meet again in Wye River, Maryland in November.