Dr David Hulcoop appointed as Open Targets Director

Open Targets is an innovative public-private partnership that uses human genetics and genomics data to systematically identify and prioritise drug targets

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Open Targets has appointed Dr David Hulcoop as its new Executive Director, following the retirement of Dr Ian Dunham. Dr Hulcoop will build from the programme’s existing capabilities to maximise Open Targets’ impact on drug discovery decision making.

Open Targets, a public-private partnership founded in 2014, aims to use the information generated by genome sequencing and genetics studies to systematically improve the identification and prioritisation of drug targets for safe and effective medicines. Founding partners, EMBL’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), the Wellcome Sanger Institute and GSK have since been joined by other industry partners: Bristol Myers Squibb, Sanofi, Pfizer, and Genentech, a member of the Roche Group.

“Open Targets has built a strong foundation in target identification and prioritisation, and has brought industry and academia together around a unique ecosystem of projects that wouldn’t exist otherwise. We are excited about how we can further harness cutting-edge technologies to explore more granular aspects of disease states and mechanisms towards our ultimate goal of helping our partners and the community to envision safe and effective medicines. As we enter our 10th year, we are focussing on the real world impact of our work, and the translation of our research to drug discovery decision making.”

Dr David Hulcoop, Executive Director of Open Targets

Dr David Hulcoop became Acting Director of Open Targets when Ian Dunham retired at the end of June 2023, and will take the helm officially on 4 October 2023 as an EMBL-EBI faculty member. He will be the first Open Targets Director with a background working in the pharmaceutical industry; after leading complex R&D projects to develop processes for large-scale production of pharmaceutical compounds at GSK, David worked for the Office of the CEO in the Future Strategy Group.

Since joining Open Targets in 2017 as Strategy and Operations Director, he has been instrumental in growing the partnership from two to five industry partners, and providing a key role in bridging academic and industry viewpoints.

Dr Hulcoop will be supported in his role by the Open Targets Executive team. Dr Gosia Trynka will take on the role of Scientific Director, to lead the overarching scientific direction of the consortium and deputise for the Director as required. Dr Ellen McDonagh will take on the role of Translational Informatics Director, to lead integrated informatics and data science strategies across projects, platforms, and core teams.

“Open Targets is a remarkable scientific endeavour fostering a real partnership between industry and academia, which creates a unique environment for innovation. In his time at Open Targets, David’s fresh perspective and dynamism have helped expand the partnership into a real community. I’m excited by his new appointment and I’m certain that Open Targets will thrive under his directorship. I look forward to working with David, Ellie and our extended community as we continue to leverage genomics data to impact target identification and drug discovery.”

Dr Gosia Trynka, Scientific Director of Open Targets and Group Leader at the Wellcome Sanger Institute

“David’s strategic direction and experience makes him the right person to lead and focus the best minds in Open Targets’ collective approach to finding new medicines. In his past six years at the Wellcome Genome Campus, David has been an active mentor, coached staff in our Startup School, and been a dedicated and supportive manager to his team. I am delighted that he will be the next Director of Open Targets.”

Dr Julia Wilson, Associate Director of the Wellcome Sanger Institute

“Open Targets has done wonders for drug target identification, validation and prioritisation under the leadership of Ian Dunham. We are certain David will continue on this innovative path, and bring his own vision to the endeavour. Open Targets’ unique, pre-competitive, highly-collaborative and cross-discipline approach has developed indispensable resources and tools for the community, and showcased that public-private collaborations are not only possible, they are profoundly advantageous.”

Dr Ewan Birney, Deputy Director General of EMBL and Director of EMBL-EBI

“Open Targets is a unique partnership I have been involved in for a long time. Over his last six years at Open Targets, David has had an increasing impact on many aspects of the consortium, and this appointment as Executive Director for Open Targets is the next logical and well-deserved step in his career. I have no doubt David will be very successful in this exciting new role.”

Dr Philippe Sanseau, Head of In Silico Target Biology and Senior Director of Computational Biology at GSK

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