GSK Cuts Six Respiratory Assets as It Continues to Focus on Oncology Treatments
By Alex Keown
GlaxoSmithKline has been in the midst of a significant reshaping to focus on pharmaceuticals, particularly a renewed interest in oncology treatments. As a result, the company has made some cuts to its pipeline, including six quietly announced this morning in the company’s year-end report.
In a slide-show of graphics used during a conference call with analysts and media members, the company revealed it had terminated eight programs, mostly in its respiratory line. In the small section marked “terminated,” GSK said it shed two treatments for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, GSK1325756 (danirixin) and GSK2269557 (nemiralisib). It also cut GSK2245035, a TLR7 agonist used for treating asthma and the TRPV4 antagonist GSK2798745, under development for acute respiratory distress syndrome and cough. Additionally, the company cut the combination treatment of GSK2398852 + GSK2315698 (anti-SAP) in transthyretin cardiomyopathy (ATTR-CM) and GSK3008348, an aVb6 antagonist for the treatment of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
The respiratory asset cuts are not much of a surprise, as the company has increasingly focused its resources on oncology treatments. In October, Alex Hoos, head of oncology at GSK, indicated that the company was shifting away from its respiratory base due to increased competition and loss of patent exclusivity. In an interview with S&P Global Market Intelligence, Hoos said the company could narrow its drug development focus to aim at products that will generate growth. The Hoos announcement followed the long-term plan for R&D unveiled over the summer by GSK Chief Science Officer and head of R&D, Hal Barron. The company said it will focus on the development of medicines that target mechanisms of action with strong human genetic validations. Those targets have a higher probability of success, which means a shift to a genetics-driven portfolio, the company said.
Since taking over the helm of GSK, Chief Executive Officer Emma Walmsley has been driving the company toward its new focus and has reshaped her executive leadership and made several significant deals to support the plan. Among the deals made by GSK, was the December 2018 decision to put down $5.1 billion to acquire Tesaro and its PARP inhibitor, Zejula, which is used as maintenance treatment for ovarian cancer. Barron has touted the belief in PARP inhibitors that “that have been underappreciated in terms of the impact they can have on cancer patients.” More recently, GSK struck a deal with Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany to collaborate on the development and potential commercialization of M7824, an immunotherapy for difficult to treat cancers. M7824 is an investigational bifunctional fusion protein immunotherapy that has the potential to be a treatment for difficult-to-treat cancers including non-small cell lung and biliary tract cancers. Barron said the alliance with Merck KGaA is an “opportunity to further accelerate our oncology strategy.”
In its announcement today, GSK noted that in its oncology pipeline, it has 16 oncology assets in clinical development with a potential for three launches by 2020. In July of 2018, the company only had eight oncology assets in clinical development. The doubling of the number of assets over the past eight months demonstrated the company’s discipline in building its oncology program. Over the course of the next year, the U.K.-based company said it will strengthen its oncology pipeline as it anticipates several key data readouts this year, including one with Zejula as first-line maintenance therapy in ovarian cancer. GSK is also anticipating a respiratory readout this year, its CAPTAIN study of Trelegy, which it expects will support regulatory submission.