GSK tosses a trio of clinical-stage drugs on trial failures, winnowing out its respiratory pipeline as cancer moves to center stage

GlaxoSmithKline is sweeping out three of its clinical stage programs as it continues to winnow out the weak from the strong in the pipeline. And there’s no surprise to see that respiratory is taking the big hit here.

The pharma giant’s Q3 roundup included taps for a trio of drugs following a reassessment of their chances. Thrown into the scrap heap are:

  • Danirixin (GSK1325756), which didn’t get past a Phase IIb trial for COPD in October. “This interim analysis showed danirixin did not achieve the primary efficacy endpoint and this has changed the understanding of the risk/benefit profile of this asset in COPD. Based on these data GSK has taken the decision to stop development in COPD.”
  • TRPV4 (GSK2798745) — called on futility during a mid-stage study in chronic cough. They’ll keep an early-stage program for acute respiratory distress syndrom.
  • TLR7 (GSK2245035). The drug flopped in a Phase II study for mild asthma, so out it goes. 

Hal Barron

R&D chief Hal Barron has pledged to clean up after the failures as quickly as possible, vowing that a fast-fail approach is his best bet to achieving a turnaround in pharma R&D.

Ironically, though, those weren’t the only trial failures that blighted pipeline prospects at GSK recently. The pharma giant’s GM-CSF drug failed the primary endpoint for rheumatoid arthritis, but company execs insist that it still has real potential, with plans to carry it into Phase III. 

Barron cited this drug as one of the company’s top prospects in a weak pipeline. When I met with him in London a couple of weeks ago, he outlined a pipeline with 22 mid-stage drugs in it, anticipating that 75% of them wouldn’t make it to the next round. In just three months, four of them met with a major clinical setback. So he’s well on his way to a high failure rate.

With more drugs on the scrap heap or under scrutiny following a clear setback in the clinic, you can expect to see the pressure grow on Barron’s team to start doing deals to beef up the late-stage pipeline, where it’s a weakling.

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