GSK invests $128m in effort to demystify cell 'operating system'

LONDON - British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline is investing US$95 million (S$128 million) to create a new U.S. research institute led by a top genomics professor to investigate how a cell's operating system works.

The move reflects a commitment to fundamental research by the British company, even as its shifts emphasis to greater reliance on non-pharmaceutical businesses such as consumer healthcare and vaccines.

Cells are often referred to as the building blocks of life, but they can be thought of in computer terms, with their own internal operating systems. Scientists have only limited understanding of this area, but by unpicking the puzzle they could gain invaluable help in determining where to start when developing drugs.

The non-profit Altius Institute for Biomedical Sciences in Seattle will be led by John Stamatoyannopoulos, of the University of Washington School of Medicine, with GSK providing more than $95 million in cash and other resources.

GSK has retained first rights to the institute's inventions and will be able to invest in commercialisation of its discoveries via spin-out companies.

The institute is expected to be operational before the end of the year.

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