In the latest twist on industry-academic collaboration, GlaxoSmithKline and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, have teamed up with the ambitious goal of finding a cure for HIV. Together they will establish the HIV Cure center, a research facility on the UNC campus, and launch Qura Therapeutics, a jointly owned firm that will house any intellectual property they generate.
GSK is committing $20 million in research support over five years. Ten of its scientists will work at the Cure center. Some 40 UNC researchers, including ones from the labs of HIV expert David Margolis, will also be there.
The unusual setup was three years in the making, according to Zhi Hong, head of GSK’s infectious diseases therapy unit. He expects the partners to spend five to 10 years conducting basic research before turning to drug development.
GSK is already involved in HIV drugs through ViiV Healthcare, a joint venture with Pfizer and Shionogi. ViiV has a portfolio of drugs that work by suppressing viral replication. Although antivirals have mostly turned HIV into a disease that people live with, rather than die from, they aren’t a cure. The new venture hopes to completely eliminate the reservoir of viral DNA that hides out in cells.
GSK is not alone in forging closer ties with academia. Pfizer, for example, has established a network of labs in which its scientists work alongside university researchers to translate basic science into medicines.
Such ties are being established as big pharma companies cut back on their internal research. Earlier this year, GSK announced major job reductions at its R&D site in Research Triangle Park, N.C.