GSK’s Olympic Role

July 17, 2012
Stephanie Sutton

Stephanie Sutton was an assistant editor at Pharmaceutical Technology Europe.

There are many ways in which pharmaceutical companies can make a contribution to society beyond developing and manufacturing medicines.

There are many ways in which pharmaceutical companies can make a contribution to society beyond developing and manufacturing medicines. GlaxoSmithKline, based in the UK, has always been keen to position itself as a supporter of the British economy so it’s no surprise to see the pharma giant being patriotic once again as it touts its involvement in the Olympic Games, which will start in London in just under two-weeks time.

As well as being a sponsor of the games, GSK is also the Official Laboratory Services Provider for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and will be working closely with King’s College London to provide facilities and equipment that will be used to identify athletes that use doping. In other words, GSK will be testing for cheats during the games. Every medalist and 50% of all athletes will be tested in this year’s games.

To achieve this, GSK will be making use of King’s College London’s expertise in doping and the college’s Drug Control Centre, which has an international reputation for its work in anti-doping control. The centre is one of only 35 accredited anti-doping laboratories in the world.

Building on this expertise, GSK has created a specifically equipped antidoping, laboratory based its R&D site in Harlow, which will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week through the Games to test for more than 240 prohibited substances. The laboratory will measure around 4400 square meters, which is about the size of seven tennis courts, and will be operated by experts from King’s College London, with support from other scientists worldwide, and in co-ordination with the Olympic Committee and International Paralympic Committee. More than 1000 staff will be involved in the process, including collection at Games venues, and 150 antidoping experts will be carrying out testing within the laboratory.

Overall, GSK expects that more than 6250 blood samples will be tested, more than in any other Olympic or Paralympic Games. At peak times, more than 400 tests may be carried out in one day and results will typically be turned around in 24 hours. Tracking technology will also be employed to identify and track samples using bar codes.

According to GSK, this is the first time a pharmaceutical company has been involved in providing laboratory services to any Olympic or Paralympic Games. If the process runs smoothly, it may be that other pharmaceutical companies begin offering their services to future Olympic Games. It’s definitely a great way to garner some positive media attention and raise brand awareness.