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GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has unveiled plans to open an independent and non-profit research institute, Altius Institute for Biomedical Sciences, in Seattle, Washington, US.

Altius will initiate new technologies and approaches for decoding how genes are controlled and how a cell’s operating system functions in health and disease.

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Headed by Dr John A Stamatoyannopoulos, Altius will be wholly independent from GSK with its own management, board of directors and external advisors.

Dr Stamatoyannopoulos said: "Innovative technologies are needed to gain a deeper understanding of how cells’ ‘operating systems’ work."

GSK has signed ten-year collaboration agreement with Altius, with the institute providing long-term support for innovative and high-impact research.

"Innovative technologies are needed to gain a deeper understanding of how cells’ ‘operating systems’ work."

The research work from the institute will be used by GSK to understand gene control to select and validate better drug targets, in addition to accelerating multiple key aspects of developing new medicines.

GSK will provide around $95m in cash and other resources during the first five years for the institute to advance the basic research and technology efforts. The institute will also gather funding from public and other sources.

Additional funding will be provided by GSK to use the institute’s technologies and discoveries in a wide range of drug discovery and development projects, including specific projects identified by the firm.

GSK alternative discovery and development senior vice-president Lon Cardon said: "Dramatic breakthroughs in understanding how the human genome functions are still in their infancy in terms of how they can be applied to drug discovery, but we can see their potential to transform the process."

Image: GlaxoSmithKline in Center City, Philadelphia. Photo: courtesy of Beyond My Ken.