After GSK acquisition, Bellus CEO seeks work opportunities for displaced staff

After GSK’s $2 billion buyout of Canada-based Bellus Health last summer, an undisclosed number of the biotech’s team members are out of a job.  

“When two companies come together during an acquisition, the capabilities across both companies are evaluated to determine the best path forward for the acquired portfolio,” a GSK spokesperson told Fierce Biotech in an emailed statement March 22. “During the GSK Bellus acquisition, we retained employees to a predetermined date to ensure the successful integration of the business. As often is the case during this process, redundancies may occur.”

While it’s unclear how many Bellus staff members will lose their jobs, former Bellus CEO Roberto Bellini wrote, “After having completed the transition activities linked to the GSK acquisition, most Bellus Health employees will be wrapping up their involvement with the company on March 31,” in a March 21 LinkedIn post.

The former CEO went on to vouch for his former staff members, tagging more than 40 people looking for new work opportunities.

The acquisition closed in June 2023 and centered around a P2X3 antagonist called camlipixant, a molecule with the same mechanism of action as Merck & Co.’s unapproved chronic cough med gefapixant.    

Bellus took camlipixant into a pair of late-phase chronic cough trials, putting it on track to deliver data in the second half of this year and 2025. Now, GSK has pocketed the phase 3 drug and expects to win approval for camlipixant with a launch in 2026.

The British Big Pharma paid out $14.75 per Bellus share, a 103% premium over the biotech’s most recent closing price at the time. The payment marks a significant turnaround from just a few years prior when Bellus traded below $3 after a 2020 mid-phase trial flop for camlipixant. Following that trial failure, the biotech managed to recover its share price with the release of phase 2b data late in 2021.

Now, GSK will keep driving phase 3 camlipixant development forward to address an unmet need among patients with refractory chronic cough, the company spokesperson said.