GSK ends 2020 with multi-million dollar deal frenzy to boost R&D

GlaxoSmithKline has closed the year with a flurry of deals, leaving its development pipeline bulging like Santa’s sack as chief scientific officer Hal Barron pursues a strategy to develop “transformational medicines”.

Barron took over as GSK’s CSO in 2018 under instructions from CEO Emma Walmsley to revamp the company’s flagging R&D effort.

Since then Barron has been busy signing deals for therapies that are validated genetically, hoping that this will make them more likely to succeed in the clinic.

The latest deals include a license agreement with San Diego-based Ligand Therapeutics, which has a subsidiary producing technology for neurological disorders.

This deal involves an upfront payment of $7 million but there is up to $154.5 million on the table if certain development, regulatory and sales goals are achieved.

GSK also announced a deal with Sosei Heptares, based in Tokyo and Cambridge, UK, to discover and develop a small molecule target for inflammatory bowel disease and other gastrointestinal immune disorders.

The Sosei Heptares deal involves an upfront payment and near-term development payment of up to £34 million ($44 million) and potential downstream payments of up to £336 million ($437 million).

These followed two deals late last week – on Thursday GSK made an $85 million licensing agreement with Surface Oncology for an early-stage antibody asset, which adds a natural killer cell approach to the company’s oncology portfolio.

Surface could receive up to $730 million in future milestone payments as well as tiered royalties on global net sales.

The antibody targets PVRIG, an inhibitory protein expressed on natural killer cells (NK cells) and T-cells.

GSK thinks the drug codenamed SRF813 could be used as a monotherapy or in combination with other drugs in GSK’s cancer pipeline targeting CD96 and PD-1.

The license agreement, together with the biotech’s cash reserves, is enough to fund operations through 2023.

And on Friday it announced a multi-year collaboration with UK-based Adestia Therapeutics to discover novel drug targets worth up to £172 million ($230 million).

The Adestia deal is based around the biotech’s “synthetic viability” technology, a concept where diseased cells are “rescued”, which will be combined with GSK’s expertise in human genetics and functional genomics.

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