by Helena Cornu

Coming from a pharmaceutical industry background, David Hulcoop is set to take over as Executive Director of the public-private partnership Open Targets

David Hulcoop, Executive Director of Open Targets. Photo credit: Jeff Dowling/EMBL-EBI


  • Open Targets is an innovative public-private partnership that uses human genetics and genomics data to systematically identify and prioritise drug targets.
  • David Hulcoop, previously Strategy and Operations Director at Open Targets, has been appointed as the new Executive Director.
  • Hulcoop aims to maximise the translational value of Open Targets’s work and realise a vision of systematic therapeutic hypothesis identification and prioritisation.

Open Targets has appointed David Hulcoop as its new Executive Director, following the retirement of Ian Dunham. Hulcoop will build on the programme’s existing capabilities to maximise Open Targets’s 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 Bristol Myers Squibb, Sanofi, Pfizer, and Genentech, a member of the Roche Group.

Emanuele de Rinaldis, VP, Global Head of Precision Medicine and Computational Biology at Sanofi, and Laurent Debussche, VP, Global Head of Tumor Biology and External Partnerships Lead Oncology Research at Sanofi, said: “Our collaboration with Open Targets and our integration within the research programme has changed the way we think about target selection. David Hulcoop has been key to helping us get the most from the partnership and bringing the benefits of membership to life within Sanofi; we are thrilled to continue working with him in this next stage of his career.”

Open Targets Executive team. Left: David Hulcoop, Executive Director. Middle: Ellen McDonagh, Translational Informatics Director. Right: Gosia Trynka, Scientific Director. Photo credit: Jeff Dowling/EMBL-EBI

New leadership

Hulcoop became Acting Director of Open Targets when Ian Dunham retired at the end of June, and will take the helm officially on 4 October as an EMBL-EBI faculty member. Before joining Open Targets, Hulcoop led complex R&D projects to develop processes for large-scale production of pharmaceutical compounds at GSK, and 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.

“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,” said David Hulcoop. “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 – the translation of our research to drug discovery decision making.”

Shaping the Future of Open Targets

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

Hulcoop will be supported in his role by the Open Targets Executive team. 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. 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.

“In this new role, David combines his extensive strategic experience at Open Targets and industry with fresh ideas and new ways of working across the consortium,” said Ellen McDonagh. “I’m excited to work closely together with David and Gosia, our team, and partners, as we shape the future of Open Targets.”

This was originally published on the Open Targets website and can also be found on the EMBL-EBI website.