10 years and $100M-plus lat­er, GSK shut­ters a Chi­na R&D site dur­ing a ma­jor pipeline over­haul

Mon­cef Slaoui

A decade ago, then GSK R&D chief Mon­cef Slaoui proud­ly un­veiled a $100 mil­lion plan to build a big neu­ro­sciences re­search group in Shang­hai. The project called for hir­ing 1,000 sci­en­tists in six years as the phar­ma gi­ant sought to make ma­jor ad­vances on Alzheimer’s, Parkin­son’s and MS.

“We don’t want to give them the crumbs,” Slaoui told the Fi­nan­cial Times, point­ed­ly re­ject­ing the no­tion that cheap la­bor had led them to the move. “It’s about dif­fer­ent sci­ence. We will link our fate to their fate. With­in five to ten years we will be mov­ing from ‘made in Chi­na’ to ‘dis­cov­ered in Chi­na’.”

To­day, GSK let it be known that they are mov­ing on to “pulling out of Chi­na.”

The rest of the R&D team will stay in Shang­hai, says a spokesper­son for the com­pa­ny, but its neu­ro­sciences work — or what re­mains of it — will go to its Philadel­phia-area hub.

GSK de­clined to tell me how many of its once-planned 1,000 hires are be­ing laid off. Here’s the bare­bones state­ment.

Fol­low­ing a port­fo­lio re­view and pri­or­i­ti­za­tion, GSK has de­cid­ed to close its Neu­ro­science R&D Cen­ter in Shang­hai and move key pro­grams to its glob­al R&D hub in Up­per Prov­i­dence (just out­side Philadel­phia), where they will ben­e­fit from co-lo­ca­tion with oth­er pipeline R&D pro­grams.

The Chi­na R&D de­vel­op­ment or­gan­i­sa­tion will con­tin­ue to be based in Shang­hai and is set to ex­pand over the next two years to ac­cel­er­ate the de­vel­op­ment of new med­i­cines. We re­main com­mit­ted to Chi­na and will fo­cus our R&D ef­forts in Chi­na on the needs of Chi­na, at both our Shang­hai site and our In­sti­tute for In­fec­tious Dis­eases and Pub­lic Health in Be­jing.

The big ques­tion was why GSK took so long. Once a big play­er in neu­ro­sciences, for­mer CEO An­drew Wit­ty sig­naled a ma­jor re­treat from the field in 2011 – though ex­ecs stout­ly in­sist­ed for years that it nev­er ex­it­ed.

Em­ma Walm­s­ley

GSK is now un­der­go­ing a ma­jor pipeline re­vamp, with new CEO Em­ma Walm­s­ley look­ing to add on­col­o­gy and au­to-in­flam­ma­to­ry con­di­tions to a pipeline al­ready dom­i­nat­ed by HIV/in­fec­tious dis­eases and res­pi­ra­to­ry con­di­tions. Neu­ro­sciences can be found at the very end of its pipeline chart, rep­re­sent­ed by a sin­gle project.

GSK has been un­der­go­ing mul­ti­ple rounds of R&D re­or­ga­ni­za­tions over the last few years. With no em­pha­sis on R&D in the neu­ro­sciences field and the phar­ma gi­ant ex­it­ing rare dis­eases as it chops 30 pro­grams, there’s no guar­an­tee you’ll ever hear of it again.

Spe­cial re­port: Meet 20 ex­tra­or­di­nary women who are su­per­charg­ing bio­phar­ma R&D

Even though many biopharma leaders have come together in recent years to address its gender gap, the consensus is clear: We still have a long way to go.

Companies this year were 2.5 times more likely than last year to have a diversity and inclusion program in place, according to a recent BIO survey, but women are still largely absent from executive roles. Getting women to enter the industry isn’t the problem — studies show that they represent just under half of all biotech employees around the world. But climbing through the ranks can be challenging, as women still report facing stereotypes, and, unfortunately, harassment.

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Op­ti­miz­ing Oral Drug De­liv­ery us­ing Zy­dis® Oral­ly Dis­in­te­grat­ing Tablet Tech­nol­o­gy to Ad­dress Pa­tient Chal­lenges

KEY POINTS

Patients prefer oral dosing, but swallowing tablets can be a challenge for many patients.
The Zydis® orally disintegrating tablet (ODT) platform addresses challenges associated with oral dosing, expanding benefits for patients and options for healthcare providers.
A strong growth trajectory is expected for ODTs given therapeutic innovation and continued technology development.

Many patients prefer conventional tablets for the administration of medications, but some geriatric and pediatric patients and those with altered mental status and physical impairments find swallowing tablets to be difficult. Orally disintegrating tablets (ODTs), which dissolve completely without chewing or sucking, offer a patient-friendly dosage form for the administration of small-molecule drugs, peptides and proteins. With the potential for multiple sites of drug absorption, often faster onset action for the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API), and potentially greater bioavailability, ODTs are an attractive option for drug developers considering first-to-market formulations or product line extensions of existing drugs with compatible API. In this report, we look at how innovation in the industry-leading Zydis ODT platform is expanding oral formulation options and bringing benefits to patients.

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Geoffrey Porges (SVB Leerink)

The 2022 wave com­ing? Top an­a­lyst says Big Phar­ma will have more than $1T avail­able to sat­is­fy its grow­ing ap­petite for biotech M&A

All through this year you could practically feel the frustration of the biotech investor class as M&A activity continued to drag behind expectations — or desires. Buyouts of public companies provide the essential juice for keeping stocks lively, and there’s been a notable lack of juice in 2021.

So is all that about to change, big time?

SVB Leerink’s Geoffrey Porges, a longtime student of biotech M&A, thinks so. In a lengthy analysis he put out last week, Porges totted up the cash flow of the major pharmas and determined that there was a good long list of industry buyers who would have around a half trillion dollars of cash to play with in 2022. Leverage that up with added debt and you could get that deal cache to $1.6 trillion.

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Mar­ket­ingRx Matchup: How Ab­b­Vie and Bio­haven ads rank in head-to-head mi­graine chal­lenge

Are you ready to rumble? DTC brands that is. MarketingRx is launching a new monthly feature today called MarketingRx Matchup. We’re pitting two pharma brands’ DTC advertising in the same therapeutic category against each other to find out what consumers and patients really think.

Market research company Leger is handling the polling and analysis each month, and I’ll be writing up the results — along with my own take — inside MRx on the first Tuesday of the month.

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Wendy Lund, Organon chief communications officer

Q&A: Organon chief com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fi­cer Wendy Lund talks about the Mer­ck spin­off, women’s health and why it mat­ters

One of Wendy Lund’s earliest jobs was head of marketing at Planned Parenthood. As the youngest person on its management team, she introduced them to emerging new technologies, and in return, she learned the importance of fighting for what you believe in.

Now as chief communications officer at Organon, the women’s health company recently spun off by Merck, Lund is keeping that point top of mind. That’s in part because women’s health hasn’t been a spotlight therapy area for Big Pharma in years. Several companies have spun off, sold or at least considered selling women’s health assets to focus on “core” products.

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Mar­ket­ingRx roundup: Pfiz­er re-ups pneu­mo­nia ads as Mer­ck threat looms; Re­al Chem­istry founder CEO Jim Weiss steps back

Every autumn, leaves fall from the trees and people start holiday shopping – and for the last few years Pfizer debuts a new “Know Pneumonia” awareness TV ad. This year the commercial, launched a week ago, features different people who talk about why they got vaccinated against pneumococcal pneumonia. Actors portray a young female firefighter with asthma, a mechanic with heart disease and an older woman with her grandchild. A Pfizer spokesperson declined comment on the latest iteration of the long-running campaign.

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Mer­ck pumps the brakes on two more PhI­II tri­als for its lead an­ti-HIV drug

After trial investigators flagged a drop in immune cell counts that an external committee determined was related to treatment last month, Merck has been pausing HIV-related Phase II and III trials ever since.

On Monday, the biopharma company announced it’s pausing enrollment in two of its Phase III trials evaluating its leading anti-HIV drug candidate, which is the once-monthly, oral islatravir.

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Klick Health agency employees appear in its annual holiday greeting video with this year's theme to #SpreadJoy (via Klick Health)

Klick Health hands out $100 bills in an­nu­al hol­i­day greet­ing that’s turned in­to de­fault re­cruit­ing tool

Editor’s Note: For more news, analysis and exclusive coverage from the marketing beat, subscribe to the Endpoints MarketingRx weekly report in your reader profile.

What would you do with $100 and the simple instruction to “spread joy?” That’s what pharma and healthcare agency Klick Health asked its employees as part of its annual holiday greeting for clients, friends and future recruits.

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Warren Huff, Reata CEO

FDA slams Reata's kid­ney drug as in­ef­fec­tive ahead of ad­comm meet­ing

The FDA on Monday offered an overwhelmingly negative opinion on Reata Pharmaceuticals’ potential drug to slow the loss of kidney function in those with the rare disease Alport syndrome, according to briefing documents released ahead of an advisory committee meeting Wednesday.

The agency’s review team said it “does not believe the submitted data demonstrate that bardoxolone is effective in slowing the loss of kidney function in patients with AS and reducing the risk of progression to kidney failure.” Originally developed as a cancer drug, bardoxolone was later scuttled by Reata almost a decade ago as a chronic kidney disease drug due to deaths in a Phase III trial.

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