Drug Development, Oncology

Hal Barron’s GSK team continues to cull respiratory drugs in big shift to oncology R&D

The new R&D team under Hal Barron is continuing to hack away at its respiratory pipeline.

Hal Barron

The pharma giant today sounded taps for six of its experimental drug programs, leaving little doubt how its research priorities have shifted since Barron was named R&D chief at the drug giant.

In a footnote to today’s quarterly update, which focused considerable attention on oncology after the Tesaro buyout and yesterday’s bispecific alliance with MerckKGaA, GSK bid a final adieu to:

GSK1325756 (danirixin) in COPD; GSK2269557 (nemiralisib) in COPD; GSK2398852 + GSK2315698 (anti-SAP, for systemic amyloidosis) in AL/ATTR-CM; GSK2245035 (TLR7 agonist) in asthma; GSK2798745 (TRPV4 antagonist) in ARDS and cough; GSK3008348 (aVb6 antagonist) in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

Three of these drugs were already on the termination list after Q3.

Barron has been outspoken about shifting the focus in R&D to oncology, where he is pushing to make a comeback several years after the former executive team at GSK swapped out its commercial oncology portfolio to Novartis in exchange for a batch of vaccines. GSK remains more than a little sensitive on the topic, but the company has had little of the big success it needs in respiratory, especially now that Advair finally faces the first in what will likely be a wave of generic competition for its mega blockbuster franchise.

Barron, though, will have no trouble owning the program executions. After taking over, the emphasis at GSK has shifted to speed. If you fail, he says, it’s best to fail fast. And in this business, you can also expect to fail often.

“If I fail 70% of the time,” he told me recently, “I’d be the most productive research person in history.”

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

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