Glaxo boss Emma Walmsley is focusing on data and technology
GlaxoSmithKline has revealed a major revamp of its research division in a bid to produce the blockbuster drugs of the future.
Emma Walmsley, the company’s boss, said a focus on data and technology was at the heart of the overhaul, which is being led by new science chief Dr Hal Barron.
It will be boosted by a £1.7billion cost-cutting drive to free cash to plough into research and development.
Walmsley, 49, also revealed a big push into genetics which could cut the time it takes to develop medicines.
A £230million investment in Silicon Valley gene tester 23andMe will give it access to 5m people’s genomes, allowing it to investigate links between genetics and disease.
And a push into oncology and HIV drugs could see new treatments being launched within two years.
Pouring cold water on speculation that Glaxo could spin off its consumer arm, which makes Sensodyne toothpaste and Panadol painkillers, Walmsley said: ‘The board’s position remains unchanged. We like the structure we have.’
Launching her plans for the future, she added: ‘This is all about innovation. We have this great history at GSK of leading in HIV, respiratory, global health and, of course, in vaccines, where we are the world leaders.
‘However, it is time to think about how we will reinvent ourselves and build on all of that history to make sure that we can provide for the next wave of growth.’
The mother-of-four was speaking as Glaxo reported its second-quarter results. Strong sales of its shingles vaccine, Shingrix, led the firm to hike full-year forecasts.
And Glaxo said it expected to launch two new treatments for HIV and its most advanced oncology therapy so far by 2020.
But it was hit by exchange rates and pricing pressures in the US. Overall, it reported flat sales of £7.3billion in the quarter, above analyst predictions of £7.2billion.
And Glaxo is also poised for sales of its top-selling lung inhaler Advair to be hit by competition, saying they could be 3pc lower if a rival emerges by October.
That has added further urgency to Walmsley’s mission to revamp the company’s pipeline of new drugs.
Since taking over from Sir Andrew Witty last year, she has cut costs, culled managers and lured high-flying executives to her top team, including Barron and former Walmart information chief Karenann Terrell.
To bolster its research efforts, Glaxo announced a restructure to save £400million per year. Walmsley refused to say whether this could see UK jobs lost.
Barron said he would focus on science related to the immune system and investments in advanced technologies.
He said: ‘Human genetics is going to represent a core component of our drug discovery strategy. We think we can cut the cost of development in half.’
The scientist paid more than his boss
The new science chief at GlaxoSmithKline will earn more than boss Emma Walmsley.
Dr Hal Barron will be paid up to £10.4million including bonuses – more than the £8.9million maximum Walmsley can earn.
The 55-year-old, dubbed ‘the Drugs Barron’, is to overhaul Glaxo’s research efforts.
But he will be based in San Francisco and spend about a week per month in the UK.
The father-of-two denied this would make it harder to do his job, saying: ‘Really successful cultural change will be independent of where I live.’
He has vowed to bring Silicon Valley thinking to Britain’s biggest drug maker. Barron was parachuted in by Walmsley in January from Google-owned biotech firm Calico.