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Penn prof Rahul Kohli wins GlaxoSmithKline drug competition

The professor, Rahul Kohli, is developing drugs that aim to prevent bacteria from becoming resistant to antibiotics. As one of the winners, Kohli gets access to GlaxoSmithKline's resources to test and develop his research further.

GlaxoSmithKline held a competition to find fledgling research it might eventually be able to commercialize as one of its own products, like its fruit drink Ribena, shown here. Photo by Iain Crockett for GlaxoSmithKline.

A Penn professor was one of eight winners of a national competition where pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline sought early-stage research that could become new kinds of medicine, according to a release.

The professor, Rahul Kohli, is developing drugs that aim to prevent bacteria from becoming resistant to antibiotics. As one of the winners, Kohli gets access to GlaxoSmithKline’s resources to test and develop his research further. That access, Kohli said, can speed up the chance of his work saving lives.

“[GlaxoSmithKline’s resources are] tremendously valuable to efficiently moving the project from a theoretical academic pursuit into a practical one which can potentially benefit patients,” said Kohli, who teaches at Penn’s medical school.

While GlaxoSmithKline often works with academic researchers to develop potential drugs, it’s the first time it held a competition with an open call for submissions like this, said spokeswoman Melinda Stubbee. Normally, Stubbee said, GlaxoSmithKline scouts researchers or works with those who are familiar with the process and know to reach out to the corporation, which has U.S. headquarters is at the Navy Yard.

GlaxoSmithKline launched the competition to cast a wider net, Stubbee said, and it worked: the competition received 142 submissions from the U.S. and Canada, according to the release. Find a full list of winners here.

The competition is part of the trend of academic research being funded more and more by corporations, GlaxoSmithKline’s Pearl Huang told Newsworks. Huang heads the company’s program to partner with academic institutions. Traditionally, university research has been funded by the federal government.

If the development phase is successful for Kohli or any of his fellow winners, GlaxoSmithKline could offer to commercialize his work.

Companies: GlaxoSmithKline / University of Pennsylvania

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