Impact looks at the relationship between the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline and the University of Nottingham.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is a global industrial pharmaceutical company, which focusses on the development of vaccines and treatments for major diseases, as well as nutrition and healthcare. Looking around your home you’re very likely to come across many of their products, from Lucozade and Sensodyne to Nicorette and Aquafresh.

The company have always had strong links to the University, taking on more graduates from Nottingham than from anywhere else. Additionally, in the past year Sir Andrew Witty, graduate of the university and CEO of GlaxoSmithKline, was introduced as Chancellor of the University.

Sir Andrew Witty, graduate of the university and CEO of GlaxoSmithKline, was introduced as Chancellor of the University.

In 2012, GSK donated £12 million to the University, for the development of a new laboratory to accommodate a Centre of Excellence for sustainable chemistry which is expected to be completed by 2014. Based on the Jubilee Campus, it would also be innovatively carbon neutral, reducing the environmental impact of the industrial development of new drugs, emphasising GSK’s ‘green chemistry’ commitment. The company aims to be carbon neutral by 2050.

In 2012, GSK donated £12 million to the University.

Impact spoke to Professor Christopher Moody of the UoN Chemistry department on how the new centre will benefit the students of the university. With respect to the how closely GSK will be involved with the new centre, Professor Moody said: “GSK will take a strong interest in how the CNL building itself performs with respect to energy consumption etc..” He added that combinations of solar panels and a renewable biomass heat source would be explored to provide power and heat for the building.

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“We will also continue to collaborate with GSK on a range of projects including a 3rd year undergraduate module on medicinal chemistry, developed in conjunction with GSK, a 4th year undergraduate project on drug discovery, and, of course, a range of PhD projects. However, a very wide range of non-GSK related activities will also take place in the CNL,” Moody continued.

GSK has not been without its negative press.

However, GSK has not been without its negative press. In 2012, the company admitted to promoting antidepressants for unapproved uses by bribing doctors, and paid out £1.9 billion in the largest healthcare fraud settlement in US history. The company has also recently admitted to some of its senior Chinese executives breaking the law after four were arrested as part of an investigation into claims that doctors had been bribed with cash and sexual favours in return for prescribing drugs made by GSK.

In an IMPACT interview with Witty following his appointment as Chancellor, he addressed the concerns of the ethical scandals the company had been through, and if these incidents would compromise the emphasis that Vice-Chancellor David Greenaway places on ‘social responsibility’. Witty said: “I think you can see that as a company we’ve got a very strong deep commitment to socially responsible operations.

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“In the last few months, for the third time in a row [GSK] were awarded the number one in the Access to Medicine Index which is a measure of the efforts to which companies go to improve access to medicines, particularly in the developing world. That review is done every two years and has only been done three times, and GSK has won it three times.”

 GSK funding and involvement in UoN sets to propel the University into one of the expert leading institutions in sustainable chemistry.

Despite the ethical grounds the company seems to be still skating on, the goal of GSK funding and involvement in UoN sets to propel the University into one of the expert leading institutions in sustainable chemistry. With the CEO as Chancellor and numerous opportunities at GSK for both students and graduates from Nottingham, the links between the company and the University look only to grow stronger as the years progress.

Faiza Peeran and Jessica Hewitt-Dean

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