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Innovative practice

Global Health R&D Unit to simulate collaboration

Company:

GSK

What:

Targeted open innovation incubators and research units.

Region:

Global

Aim:

To accelerate innovation and R&D for conditions unique or endemic to low- and middle-income countries.

Context:

Open innovation can better advance technology and ideas by looking outside an organisation’s boundaries to share expertise and know-how. This type of innovation can be especially useful for R&D for diseases with little commercial incentive to develop new products, such as neglected tropical diseases.

Open innovation can better advance technology and ideas by looking outside an organisation’s boundaries to share expertise and know-how. This type of innovation can be especially useful for R&D for diseases with little commercial incentive to develop new products, such as NTDs, particularly if companies have extensive compound libraries and other potentially untapped resources. Several pharmaceutical companies have established research units and incubators for open innovation, allowing others to utilise these resources and address a range of diseases while promoting collaboration.

What makes this an innovation?
GSK goes a step further. Its Global Health R&D Unit, established in 2017, combines several distinct models of open innovation, with a specific focus on R&D for conditions unique or endemic to low- and middle-income countries. GSK has been evolving these models for several years, and they are now part of a dedicated unit, under a single leadership team.
GSK’s global health R&D unit oversees three leading initiatives. The first is the Tres Cantos Open Lab Foundation (TCOLF), a specialist research centre in Spain, which since 2010 has enabled independent researchers to access GSK facilities, resources and expertise to advance research into diseases relevant to low- and middle-income countries. 
A second initiative, Trust in Science, aims to build R&D capacity. A third initiative is the global health R&D catalyst unit, which oversees GSK’s Africa NCD Open Lab and its maternal and neonatal health R&D unit.

Through these initiatives, GSK seeks to address diseases that have a disproportionate effect on people living in countries in scope. As part of this, it has committed to incorporating access plans into projects associated with these initiatives, including not-for-profit pricing, sharing of the intellectual property derived from initiatives, and the application of royalty-free voluntary licences to medicines such as dolutegravir (Tivicay®), which treats HIV infection.

Expanding resources and knowledge GSK is expanding its Global Health R&D Unit to address further global health needs. In 2017, for example, TCOLF added shigellosis, a priority R&D target, to the list of diseases for which it supports research. Trust in Science is extending its work to new countries in scope of the Index. Since 2011, GSK has also partnered with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), working to advance access to intellectual property including compounds and patent-associated experimental data to accelerate R&D for NTDs and other high-burden communicable diseases. Through its Global Health R&D Unit (which incorporates access plans, operates under a single management and includes all disease categories within the scope of the Index), GSK has brought a fresh approach to open innovation.


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