UK business secretary looking into Philip Morris' proposed deal to acquire Vectura — report
Philip Morris’ proposed $1.5 billion deal to acquire the UK-based inhaled therapeutics company Vectura has anti-smoking groups up in arms — and now, the British government is reportedly looking into the deal.
The UK’s business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has reportedly asked officials to monitor Philip Morris’ proposed takeover of Vectura, which spun out of the University of Bath back in 1997, according to the London Times.
Kwarteng is taking a further look at the proposed deal along with unnamed officials, after the country’s shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth and shadow business secretary Ed Miliband wrote a letter urging the government to intervene, the Times reported. The UK’s Shadow Cabinet consists of a team of senior spokespeople appointed to question and challenge their counterparts and propose alternative policies.
“Vectura must be protected. Its work in developing drugs for respiratory conditions makes it an important firm in helping to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic, and on this basis there are clear grounds to block this deal,” the shadow secretaries wrote, per the Times.
Charities and anti-smoking groups have lambasted the deal, including London-based Cancer Research UK, which took to Twitter on Tuesday to discuss the issue.
“It’s ironic that a tobacco company wants to invest in the lung health industry when their products are the biggest preventable cause of cancer, including lung cancer,” CEO Michelle Mitchell wrote in a statement. “If PMI really wanted to help, they could stop selling and aggressively promoting their products altogether.”
Big tobacco giant PMI's bid for lung health company Vectura follows their strategy to position themselves as part of the solution to a #Smokefree world – all the while continuing to sell cigarettes.
— CRUK Policy (@CRUK_Policy) July 13, 2021
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of the health charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), told the Evening Standard: “I can’t imagine the scientists working for Vectura, a respectable company making products that treat lung cancer, are going to be at all happy waking up to find they’re going to be working for Big Tobacco.”
Philip Morris — the manufacturer of Marlboro cigarettes — took the wraps off a proposed deal on Friday to acquire Vectura and the services of some 200 scientists working on building their new pipeline. CEO Jacek Olczak says the move is in line with the company’s “beyond nicotine” strategy announced earlier this year. He hopes to generate more than 50% of the company’s revenue from smoke-free products by 2025, and at least $1 billion from non-nicotine products.
Medicago, which is partially owned by Philip Morris International, entered the race for a Covid-19 vaccine last summer, with an approach that uses tobacco leaves to produce an S-spike protein. But after getting off to a late start, the company quickly fell behind other drugmakers, including Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna who snagged the first two US authorizations in December.
This May, Medicago reported positive Phase II results from its candidate produced in collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline, claiming that nearly 10 times the amount of antibodies were found in patients dosed with the vaccine than a panel of patients recovering from the virus.
Vectura recently reorganized into a CDMO, attracting top industry clients like Novartis to make their inhaled drugs.
“The market for inhaled therapeutics is large and growing rapidly, with significant potential for expansion into new application areas,” Olczak said. “PMI has the commitment to science and the financial resources to empower Vectura’s skilled team to execute on an ambitious long-term vision.”