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MSD joins the Open Targets consortium


Open Targets, a public-private partnership dedicated to pre-competitive drug discovery research, today announced MSD, the tradename of Merck & Co., Inc., Rahway, N.J., USA, as the latest partner to join the consortium. Open Targets aims to accelerate the development of safe and effective medicines by leveraging cutting-edge technologies to identify, prioritise, and validate potential drug targets. MSD’s expertise in drug discovery will complement the strengths of the current partners: EMBL’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), the Wellcome Sanger Institute, GSK, Sanofi, Pfizer, and Genentech, a member of the Roche group.


Open Targets was founded in 2014 to help address the high attrition rates of potential new therapies in clinical trials. Retrospective analyses – including from Open Targets 1,2 – show that clinical trials are more likely to succeed when the link between the disease and the drug target is supported by evidence from genetics and genomics studies. The consortium bridges the gap between academic research and pharmaceutical drug development to generate and interpret the evidence that supports decision making in drug target discovery.


Open Targets partners collaborate on innovative projects aiming to identify causal links between targets, biological pathways, and disease. The consortium’s research portfolio combines systematic, large-scale experimental techniques with cutting-edge informatics approaches and addresses all aspects of human health and disease, with a particular focus on immunology and inflammation, oncology, and neurodegeneration.


“MSD is a fantastic addition to the partnership,” said David Hulcoop, Executive Director of Open Targets. “Every new partner pushes the consortium forward and enables us to aim for more ambitious and impactful projects. With MSD’s reputation for scientific excellence, I’m excited to see what we can achieve together.”


The partnership is committed to rapid publication to openly share experimental data, informatic methods, and other knowledge generated by the consortium with the broader scientific community. In the 10 years since the partnership was founded, Open Targets has published research that provides evidence of novel target-disease associations and creates or extends data infrastructures that are foundational to the identification and prioritisation of potential drug targets.


“We are pleased to join the Open Targets consortium and believe this unique public-private model will allow us to leverage large-scale genomics data along with advances in AI and machine learning, so we can better understand the underlying drivers of disease and enable more efficient target discovery,” said Iya Khalil, Vice President and Head of Data, AI and genome sciences, MSD Research Laboratories. “We look forward to working closely with our partners at Open Targets.”


References

  1. Ochoa et al. (2022) Human genetics evidence supports two-thirds of the 2021 FDA-approved drugs. Nature Reviews Drug Discovery

  2. Rusina et al. (2023) Genetic support for FDA-approved drugs over the past decade. Nature Reviews Drug Discovery


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