Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has partnered with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to jointly develop muscular dystrophy therapeutics.

The collaboration, which represents the participation of the first US institution in GSK’s Discovery Partnership with Academia (DPAc) programme, will focus on developing medicines that reverse facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) by suppressing the protein that is wrongly expressed by the DUX4 gene in FSHD patients.

Stephen Tapscott, MD, PhD, a member of the Fred Hutch Human Biology Division, will lead the Fred Hutch work in the GSK collaboration. 

GSK DPAc global head Pearl Huang said that the combination of GSK’s drug-discovery expertise with the in-depth disease knowledge of academic groups could lead to the discovery and development of new medicines.

"We’re excited to be expanding our academic programme in North America and are looking forward to working closely with scientists like Dr. Tapscott, whose deep understanding of disease biology will complement our own work in this field,"

FSHD genetic and disease mechanism research carried out at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center forms the basis for the alliance, under which both companies will work together to develop the novel therapeutics.

The financial terms of the alliance have not been revealed.

The discoveries made by the Fred Hutchinson team so far could also prove useful in developing cancer immunotherapies, as the researchers identified that DUX4 regulates cancer/testis antigens.

Fred Hutch industry relations and technology transfer vice president Ulrich Mueller said, "We’re looking for more creative academic-industry partnerships like this one between Fred Hutch and GSK."

Image: Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is the first US institution to participate in GSK’s academic-industry partnership programme. Photo: Maxwell Hamilton.