GSK's Emma Walmsley granted damehood by Queen Elizabeth II
GlaxoSmithKline CEO Emma Walmsley is adding a royal title to her name. In Queen Elizabeth II’s annual Birthday Honours — which came a bit late this year due to the pandemic — Walmsley was dubbed a dame.
The Birthday Honours are intended to recognize “outstanding achievements” across the UK. This year, about a third of the awards were given to “heroes” of the pandemic, according to The Guardian. Dames are equivalent in status to knights — a title earned by Walmsley’s predecessor Andrew Witty in 2012.
Walmsley became GSK’s first female CEO in 2017. Before that, she was CEO of GSK Consumer Healthcare, a joint venture between the UK-based biotech and Novartis. She also worked at L’Oreal for 17 years, globetrotting and serving a number of marketing and general management positions. And now, she’s heading one of the world’s largest vaccine company’s efforts to stop Covid-19 in its tracks.
GSK is working with Sanofi on a vaccine that combines the French pharma giant’s S-protein Covid-19 antigen with a GSK adjuvant. While not as far along as Moderna, Pfizer or fellow UK-based AstraZeneca, GSK launched a Phase I/II study in September and hopes to begin a Phase III trial before the end of the year. In addition to landing a $2.1 billion Operation Warp Speed contract to supply the US with 100 million doses, the partners have reached a deal to provide the EU with up to 300 million doses, and Canada with 72 million.
“There is no doubt we are, as an industry, going faster. We are condensing timelines that can take ten years into two,” Walmsley told The Sunday Times last week.
Last year, £7.2 billion ($9.4 billion) of GSK’s total £33.7 billion ($44 billion) revenue came from vaccines.
Dame Emma Natasha Walmsley isn’t the only biotech leader to attract the queen’s attention this year. AstraZeneca’s executive VP of biopharma R&D Mene Pangalos was knighted at the New Year 2020 Honours. “The UK is one of the best places in the world to do applied research, and life sciences clusters such as the one in Cambridge drive the convergence of scientific innovation and talent, enabling us to better turn science into life-changing medicines,” he said in a statement.