A couple weeks after activist attack, GlaxoSmithKline unveils big plans to create a UK biotech hub
A couple weeks after activist investor Elliott began its long-awaited attack on CEO Emma Walmsley, GlaxoSmithKline has unveiled a plan to sell over a third of the land at its Stevenage, UK, site to create “one of Europe’s largest ‘clusters’ for biotechnology” and early-stage life sciences companies.
The pharma is putting 33 acres up for sale, which GSK says could be developed into about 100,000 square meters of floor space and create thousands of jobs. All it would take, the company says, is a private developer to invest a little more than $552 million (£400 million).
The new campus would neighbor GSK’s existing facility, as well as the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst and Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult. The pharma’s hoping to pick a development partner later this year, and start on the master plan in 2022.
GSK’s R&D chief Hal Barron is based in San Francisco, which leaves him far from the company’s R&D operations in Stevenage and the Philadelphia area.
“Our goal is for Stevenage to emerge as a top destination for medical and scientific research by the end of the decade,” Tony Wood, Senior VP of medicinal science and technology at GSK, said in a statement.
GSK’s existing facility will be unaffected by the development plans, aside from the widening of a public road to improve access to the site.
The news comes a couple weeks after activist investor Elliott called for a shakeup at the top — starting with a new board. In a letter, Elliott said GSK has “lost its way,” and “fails to capture business opportunities due to years of undermanagement.” The firm urged GSK to review its leadership and stay open to a potential sale of its consumer healthcare business, which Walmsley is currently planning to spin off by mid-2022.
GSK shrugged off the attack as a repeat of stale criticism: “We set out on 23 June an ambitious plan to deliver a step-change in performance and realise significant value for GSK shareholders over the next decade. We believe our shareholders are supportive of this strategy, and that they are focused on GSK executing on it without distraction or delay.”