GSK’s John Fleming on rethinking oncology from the ground up

What if we could look at cancer treatment from a completely fresh perspective? This is the philosophy GSK’s UK country medical head for oncology, John Fleming, wants to bring to the company as it rethinks its approach to cancer.

Fleming joined Novartis in 2015, when GSK divested its oncology portfolio to the Swiss firm. It might seem surprising, then, that his focus on cancer would bring him back to GSK – but, as Fleming points out, the company never truly left the oncology space, and it seemed to him to be the perfect place to help transform outcomes for people living with cancer.

“When people talk about GSK re-entering oncology, that’s really a misconception,” he explains. “The divestment involved a lot of second-to-market oral therapies, which didn’t have the opportunity to be truly transformational and lead in their classes – so what was left behind was an R&D engine that was free to innovate and discover new molecular entities. It was a blank slate, if you will – an unencumbered starting point for us to look at fresh approaches and discover new modalities and classes of drugs.

“That’s why I chose to return to ‘GSK oncology 2.0’ – because we have this opportunity to build with a start-up mindset at a large pharma.”


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