GSK's Hal Barron axes a once-prized drug from J&J, continuing shift away from respiratory
Hal Barron’s revamp of the GlaxoSmithKline pipeline continued yesterday, as the British pharma announced they axed an asthma drug they once promised over $200 million to acquire.
Then led by CEO Andrew Witty and R&D chief Patrick Vallance, GSK picked up the drug, known elegantly as GSK3772847, from J&J in 2016, hoping to expand on the beachhead in asthma they had established the year prior with Breo Ellipta. They promised up to $227 million in upfront payments and milestones.
In the four years since, though, studies on this and similar compounds at other companies have cast doubt on the biological mechanism underpinning the approach, while Barron has reoriented much of the company’s development efforts away from respiratory and towards oncology.
GSK3772847 was meant to tamp down inflammation by blocking IL-33, an immune signaling molecule known to activate helper T cells and implicated in a wide variety of diseases and infections. The company saw potential for a broad-spectrum drug against different types of asthma.
Last year, though, a similar drug from Regeneron, REGN3500, failed Phase II studies on both asthma and atopic dermatitis. And the GSK drug itself showed less-than-overwhelming results in its own 165-person Phase II study on patients with moderate to severe asthma. On the drug arm, 67% of patients saw loss of asthma control, compared to 81% on the placebo arm.
Another study for patients with asthma with allergic fungal airway disease (AFAD) was terminated this year after enrolling just 17 patients, with GSK citing difficulties in properly screening patients. A third study, testing a subcutaneous version of the drug in healthy participants, launched in April and added trial sites as recently as August.
GSK’s respiratory pipeline now essentially consists of a single experimental asset: an IL-5 inhibitor for asthma, which completed a Phase I trial in 2019 and which GSK has said little about since. Studies are also ongoing on new indications for the approved drugs Nucala and Trelegy, representing the vast bulk of the company’s remaining respiratory efforts.