GlaxoSmithKline snaps up Bristol’s HIV drugs

The GlaxoSmithKline-led (GSK) joint venture in HIV treatment, ViiV Healthcare, is to acquire promising pipeline drugs from Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS).

The acquisitions are a clear move by GSK to win market share from Gilead, the leader in HIV treatments.

ViiV is to pay $350 million with potential development and milestone payments of up to $518 million for BMS’s clinical assets, with further payments of up to $587 million for the discovery and pre-clinical programmes.

ViiV was created as a joint venture company in 2009, with GSK currently controlling around 76%, Pfizer holding 13.5% and Shinogi owning 10%.

GSK was once the market leader in HIV, but has been eclipsed by Gilead in the last decade. The BMS drug buy-out is a change of direction for GSK – just a few months ago it had been considering a spin-out of ViiV, but now sees the division as part of its long-term growth plan.

Two of the most notable drugs being acquired from BMS are novel late-stage treatments. The first is an attachment inhibitor (BMS-663068), currently in phase III as a therapeutic option for heavily treatment-experienced patients. The second is a maturation inhibitor (BMS-955176), currently in phase IIb trials for treatment-naïve and treatment-experienced patients. The pipeline also includes active preclinical and discovery-stage programmes.

David Redfern, chief strategy officer at GSK and chairman of ViiV Healthcare, said the acquisitions would strengthen its leadership and innovation in HIV, with the new pipeline molecules providing it with new opportunities for growth.

ViiV’s revenues in 2014 reached £1.5 billion ($2.23 billion) but this is a fraction of the $10 billion earned by Gilead, which dominates the market with combination treatments Atripla, Stribild and Truvada, recently adding another, Genvoya.

ViiV says, if approved, both of the BMS late-stage drugs will be first-in-class, and could add up to billions in extra revenues for the firm. The deal is expected to be completed in the first half of 2016, subject to regulatory approval.

The last 20 years has seen enormous progress made in HIV treatments, with new combination drugs helping to suppress the virus indefinitely. This makes finding new drugs which can improve treatment increasingly difficult to find.

BMS says the sale is in line with its business strategy, and had already announced in June that it would be discontinuing its R&D in virology. Gilead also recently announced that it is no longer developing new HIV treatments, but will pursue the more difficult challenge of curing the disease.

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