GSK’s Tres Cantos Open Lab for R&D for Diseases of the Developing World

Providing a critical mass of knowledge around neglected diseases, to lead to the discovery and development of desperately-needed new medicines, creating a truly world-leading facility in collaborative research.
Academia or research institute 64
Technology 1
Product Development Partnerships 2
Government 1
Pharma (non-IFPMA member) 1

As part of our response to the challenges faced in the developing world, in 2001 GSK established our research centre at Tres Cantos in Madrid to work exclusively on tackling diseases of the developing world. The unit focuses primarily on malaria and tuberculosis, along with certain neglected tropical diseases. Research decisions at Tres Cantos are prioritised on their socio-economic and public health benefits, rather than on commercial returns.

Then, in 2010, we committed to open up the Tres Cantos campus to allow GSK researchers to work more collaboratively with scientists from universities, not-for-profit partnerships and other research institutes. By opening our Tres Cantos research facility to more alliances, we aim to provide a critical mass of knowledge around neglected diseases. We hope this knowledge will lead to the discovery and development of desperately-needed new medicines, creating a truly world-leading facility in collaborative research.

GSK has an R&D facility in Tres Cantos, Spain, which has been dedicated to developing new treatments to combat diseases of the developing world (DDW) since it was established in 2001.

In 2010, GSK committed to open up the Tres Cantos campus to allow GSK researchers to work more collaboratively with scientists from universities, not-for-profit partnerships and other research institutes. This is known as the Tres Cantos Open Lab Foundation (TCOLF). TCOLF is an independent, not-for-profit organisation, overseen by a Governing Board. TCOLF seeks to address the translational and funding gap existing in Global Health between basic research and drug discovery by creating a project-based collaborative environment integrating academic and industry teams. This allows rapid testing of novel therapeutic hypotheses. It is an opportunity for scientists from around the world to partner with GSK teams and use GSK’s facilities and know-how to rapid-test their own projects at the very early stages of drug discovery. It is the world’s first open laboratory for diseases of the developing world, where world-class scientists can test ideas on an industrial scale. In this way we are seeking to address the funding issues that have long prevented significant attention being given to diseases particularly common in the least developed countries.

A governing board of leading scientists provide strategic direction for the foundation. All projects supported by the Open Lab Foundation must contribute to research that helps discover new medicines for diseases of the developing world. Projects are focused on early stage drug discovery and could involve research into new targets, tools, screening, lead identification, lead optimisation, and progression of advance clinical assets up to Phase 2a. To be considered for support, there should be added value for the project in operating within the collaborative principles of the Open Lab, and it must align with the strategic objectives of the Foundation and diseases in scope (malaria, Chagas disease, tuberculosis, leishmaniasis, and enteric infections):

  • To accelerate transformational science by developing new more relevant assays, PK/PD models, exploring new modalities beyond small molecules, chemical validation of novel targets, etc.
  • To develop new discovery platforms enabling drug discovery on new targets, phenotypic assays or in vivo models.
  • To strengthen the Global Health pipeline by screening novel chemical diversity using novel phenotypic assays or validated targets, optimisation of novel chemical scaffolds and progression of novel and differentiated pre-clinical and clinical assets (including exploring opportunities for repurposing).


The Open Lab’s vision is to have around ten projects at Tres Cantos at any given time.

This GSK funding, in addition to the access to R&D resources, expertise and mentorship for visiting scientists at the Open Lab, are the cornerstones of how we have turned a novel idea for open innovation into a reality.
Professor Peter Piot
Chair Tres Cantos Open Lab Governing Board and Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
The open lab has pioneered new ways of bringing together academia and industry.
Dr. Tim Wells
CSO of Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV)
The Tres Cantos Open Lab has been a very useful mechanism for our grantees to interact with GSK and to test or translate ideas and concepts into drug discovery programs.
Dr. Ken Duncan
Deputy Director, Discovery & Translational Sciences, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Results and milestones

To facilitate the establishment of the Tres Cantos Open Lab Foundation in January 2010 GSK donated £5 million. In 2012 GSK doubled this funding to a total of £10m and in 2018 a new £5 million donation was announced.

Since the Open Lab was established in 2011, more than 250 proposals have been evaluated, 99 scientists from world-class institutions have been trained in global health drug discovery in an industrial setting, 69 projects have been approved, and four further projects have been approved. One of the projects completed at the Open Lab was conducted by iThemba, a company supported by the South African Government, to identify potential new compounds against TB, specifically multidrug and extremely drug-resistant TB, and co-infection with HIV-AIDS.

Geographic Reach
  • Global Commitment
Disease Area
  • Infectious and Parasitic Disease
See Disease Areas
Target Population
  • Children
  • Youth
  • People with low incomes
Partner organizations
Academia or research institute

Centre for Infectious Disease Research (CIDR)

Monash University

University of Florida


Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

National University of Rosario

University of Georgia


Caucaseco Scientific Research Center (CSRC)

New York University

University of Glasgow

Research Agency of Aragon (ARAID)

Durham University

Sapienza University of Rome

University of Helsinki

Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM)

Harvard Medical School

Seattle Biomedical Research Institute

University of Liverpool

European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL)

Harvard School for Public Health

Structural Genomics Consortium / University of Oxford

University of Melbourne


Imperial College London

SUNY Upstate Medical University

University of Minnesota


INSERM / INTS (Institut National de la Transfusion Sanguine)

Texas A&M University

University of Oxford


Institut de Biologie Structurale (IBS)

University of Alabama at Birmingham

University of South Florida

University San Pablo CEU

Institut Pasteur Korea

University of Birmingham

University of Sydney


London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM)

University of British Columbia

University of Washington


Mahidol University

University of Buenos Aires

University of Zaragoza


Barcelona Centre for International Health Research (CRESIB)

Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg

University of California, Berkeley

University Utrecht

Biomedical Primate Research Centre

MBL (Marine Biological Laboratory)

University of Cambridge

Weill Medical College, Cornell University

The California Institute for Biomedical Research (Calibr)

McGill University

University of Dundee

Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute

Center for Cooperative Research in Biosciences (CIC bioGUNE)

Michigan State University

University of Edinburgh

Seattle Children's Research Institute


Omnia Molecular

Product Development Partnerships

Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV)

Tuberculosis Drug Accelerator (TBDA)


US National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Pharma (non-IFPMA member)

iThemba Pharmaceuticals

Additional resources