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European Biopharmaceutical Review

Under Lock and Key

A new approach to early-stage drug development is being pioneered in Cambridge with the establishment of the Milner Therapeutics Institute (1). This collaboration between pharmaceutical companies and a number of academic institutions aims to create an ecosystem for pre-competitive drug discovery by sharing data and other resources. This initiative illustrates how the increasing volume and complexity of biodata is creating the need for new data management models to ensure that researchers can access the information they need, wherever it is stored, within a secure environment.

The Milner Institute has evolved from the research agreement signed in June 2015 between the University of Cambridge, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the Babraham Institute with the pharma companies AstraZeneca, Astex and GSK. The number of affiliates has since increased to 66 (2).

Having an agreement in place has lowered the barriers of engagement. Where previously the exchange of potential drug molecules between pharma and researchers could take a year, it now takes two to three weeks.

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Dr Misha Kapushesky is founder and Chief Executive Officer of biodata management company Genestack. Prior to Genestack, he was Team Leader in Functional Genomics at the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI), where he led a team developing pioneering bioinformatics data systems to manage and query the data EBI was archiving. The high level of industry interest made Misha realise these tools addressed a significant pain-point. Genestack has since worked closely with leading industry partners to build a bioinformatics infrastructure that makes it easy to find, combine, analyse and visualise data. Misha has participated in and led international consortia applying bioinformatics to medical research.

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Dr Misha Kapushesky
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