Peer Review

Peer Review: GSK recruits a star cancer scientist to its board ahead of R&D reorganization

Laurie Glimcher FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty


GlaxoSmithKline has just appointed Laurie Glimcher — a pioneering scientist and a champion for advancing women to senior positions in the biomedical world — to its board. Up until just 7 days ago, she was also on the board of Bristol-Myers Squibb, a trendsetter in the blockbuster immuno-oncology world. And the move just may say something about GSK CEO Emma Walmsley’s ideas about the future of the company, which now reportedly include a plan to revamp the pipeline.

Glimcher is the CEO of Dana-Farber, one of the most prestigious cancer research centers in the world. She is also a researcher who has devoted a considerable amount of lab time to immuno-oncology, a subject she helped cover during her 20 years on the board of Bristol-Myers Squibb, a post which she abruptly jumped out of a week ago with a note about her “retirement.”

GSK Chairman Philip Hampton spotlighted her “wealth of expertise in scientific and medical innovation” for her new board role as a scientific and medical expert.

GSK completed a high-profile asset swap with Novartis a few years ago, exchanging its mature cancer projects and commercial products with Novartis in exchange for vaccines. Since then, it’s made little headway in the late-stage pipeline outside of vaccines and HIV, through its majority-owned subsidiary ViiV. After the Phase III washout of a slate of major candidates, GSK slashed its US R&D group in North Carolina as it cut costs and regrouped. Since then pharma R&D has become one of its least exciting fields, with no big products in the late-stage pipeline to excite investors.

According to a report from Reuters, Walmsley is quietly planning a revamp of the pipeline, looking to dump marginal projects and bring in new ones.

GSK, though, never got out of oncology. The pharma giant retained a significant early-stage R&D group in cancer, executing a partnership with the UK’s Adaptimmune. Any move to switch the spotlight back to oncology would be a major changeup in the Big Pharma world. So you can expect at least a few people to be paying close attention to this news.


David Meeker

→ Radius put out the word that it is making a change at the helm, with longtime CEO Bob Ward out and Novo US president Jesper Høiland stepping in to orchestrate the campaign for Radius’ first market launch. The news arrived just after Amgen announced that the FDA had formerly rejected its rival osteoporosis drug.

→ David Meeker, the former chief of Sanofi-Genzyme, has another chairman’s role to fill. This time he’s taking the lead board chair at Trevi Therapeutics, which just raised a $50 million C round.  Meeker was named chairman of Rhythm in April, following up with a board appointment at San Francisco-based MyoKardia.

→ Myovant Sciences CEO Lynn Seely has been building out her team. This week she named Matthew Lang as general counsel and corporate secretary; Juan Camilo Arjona Ferreira, has joined as chief medical officer; Teresa Perney, PhD, has joined as senior vice president of regulatory affairs and quality assurance; and Andria Langenberg, has joined as head of drug safety and pharmacovigilance.

→ Singapore-based Tessa Therapeutics, an oncology-focused biotech which recently partnered with the Parker Institute, announced the appointment of Jennifer Butler as chief commercial officer. She’s in charge of building the company’s US operations.

→ London-based Autolus has been adding to the T-cell team this week. Its new execs are Christopher Vann, chief operating officer; Matthias Alder, chief business officer; Muhammad Al-Hajj, SVP of translational science and Nushmia Khokar, VP of clinical development.

→ Austin-based Aeglea BioTherapeutics $AGLE says that David Lowe resigned as the company’s president, chief executive officer and director, effective immediately. Anthony Quinn, has been appointed to serve as interim chief executive officer while the company conducts a comprehensive search for a permanent chief executive officer.


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