GSK boosts Theravance stake after grabbing lead in drug race

GlaxoSmithKline is putting some added financial muscle into its embrace of South San Francisco-based Theravance. The pharma giant is investing close to $130 million to boost its stake in its biotech partner to 19 percent. GSK and Theravance are allied on Relovair, a promising late-stage respiratory drug tapped to become the likely successor to the blockbuster Advair.

Investigators in the development program for the asthma and COPD therapy hope to get the experimental treatment to the marketplace by 2013, which would position it to pick up sales as Advair faces generic competition for its $7.8 billion franchise.

"We were keen to take advantage of this opportunity to increase our shareholding in Theravance," said Moncef Slaoui, chairman of R&D at GSK. "This reflects the confidence we have in the Relovair program and the wider late stage respiratory pipeline that we have built up through the collaboration." .

Just weeks ago, GSK CEO Andrew Witty told reporters that the Relovair program was in the lead in a hot race to the drug market. That comment followed Novartis' announcement that its program for QMF149 was being delayed, pushing back any potential launch to 2014.

- check out the press release
- read the story from Reuters
- here's the Bloomberg piece