GSK’s Luke Miels applies budget shock therapy to shake up the pharma group, refocus on blockbusters

The dramatic change of culture underway at GlaxoSmithKline is back on display this morning.

Emma Walmsley

Reuters’ Ben Hirschler got wind of a demand from new pharma chief Luke Miels that his managers come up with 20% cost savings. They plan to devote the savings to concentrate more firepower on fewer products — part of the same “go big or go home” style that CEO Emma Walmsley is demanding on the R&D side of the business, which is looking to score near-term gains with a ramp-up on the oncology side.

After years of sliding along under Andrew Witty with an underperforming research group, Walmsley and her lieutenants have been shaking things up in the pharma group, looking to match a blockbuster R&D strategy that has helped drive a slate of new programs at other aggressive top-15 companies like Novartis.

That was apparent with the quick exit of the former R&D exec and the introduction of Hal Barron to complete a makeover in research, where weak projects got the boot. Walmsley’s take-no-prisoners attitude drove a showdown with Gilead over HIV. And she had to fight AstraZeneca just to complete Miels’ move from the other big pharma outfit in the UK.

It’s unlikely that the revamp will be over soon.

Miels wouldn’t confirm the details of his plan to Reuters, but he was happy to underscore the new, lean-and-mean approach — something that Hirschler confirms is ruffling more than a few feathers in an operation known for a “more consultative” style.

Changing big organizations is never easy. But encouraging the status quo at GSK was a non-starter.

Image: Luke Miels.

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
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Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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