GSK offloads French drug discovery site, commits $40M to support transition


GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) has found a buyer for a French drug discovery site rendered redundant by its revamped dual-hub R&D model. Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) partner Oncodesign has agreed to take over the Paris facility on the condition GSK pays $40 million over the next four years to support the transition.

The ax has hung over the Les Ulis site on the southern outskirts of Paris and its employees ever since GSK made Stevenage, U.K. and Upper Providence, PA, the twin centers of its R&D strategy last year. This time last year, GSK gave itself 6 months to find a buyer for Les Ulis before starting the arduous process of shuttering a facility in a country with strong labor laws.

Oncodesign has saved GSK from that fate, and saved 57 employees from having to find a new job. The continued employment of the staff is dependent on money from GSK, which has promised to provide $40 million over the next four years to help Oncodesign make payroll while integrating the site into its operation.

Les Ulis lists the discovery of the active ingredient in Eli Lilly’s ($LLY) erectile dysfunction blockbuster Cialis among its successes, but this proved insufficient to save it from an ax-wielding Andrew Witty. The site joins facilities at Research Triangle Park, NC, and Philadelphia, PA, on the list of those affected by Witty’s attempts to cut GSK's annual budget while improving its R&D success rate.

The deal is expected to go through by December 1, at which time Oncodesign will gain access to the medicinal chemistry, biology, in vivo pharmacology and drug metabolism expertise and capabilities GSK thinks it can now do without. GSK took the decision after concluding anything that the Les Ulis site could do, Stevenage and Upper Providence could do, too.

For Oncodesign, the deal gives it a major presence in Paris to complement the employees housed at Ipsen’s nearby facility and its own site in Dijon. And the aforementioned list of capabilities meshes well with its existing areas of expertise and collaborations, which include a medicinal chemistry pact with Bristol-Myers and a pharmacology hook up with Ipsen.

“This acquisition further accelerates the development of our strategic partnerships, with Ipsen, BMS and UCB,” Oncodesign CEO Philippe Genne said in a statement. “In addition, it will speed up our Nanocyclix based drug discovery internal programs through increased capabilities and productivity in both oncology and non-oncology areas.”