GlaxoSmithKline on the prowl for early-stage cancer deals to jump-start pipeline

GlaxoSmithKline will start hunting for early-stage oncology or immunology drugs to license or buy, pharma chief Luke Miels told Reuters.

After unveiling an R&D makeover this summer, GlaxoSmithKline is looking to reassert itself in the oncology space. To that end, the drugmaker is seeking deals in cancer medicine and immunology, said pharma chief Luke Miels in an interview with Reuters.

The company will concentrate on buying or licensing early-stage drugs, said Miels, who jumped over to GSK from AstraZeneca in January, but wasn’t released to start his new duties until September.

The search will kick off in the new year, when Hal Barron, GSK’s new chief scientific officer and R&D head and a fellow Roche alum, hits the ground.

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“Where there are gaps in the pipeline, both Hal and myself have a bit of experience with business development. Hopefully, if we did see something outside then we would make a good call and invest sensibly on behalf of shareholders,” Miels told Reuters.

CEO Emma Walmsley took the helm in April and wasted no time in overhauling the drugmaker’s pharma division. In July, she announced the company would ditch more than 30 drug development programs and refocus its R&D dollars on four therapeutic areas.

Miels is tapping his experience at AstraZeneca, which also narrowed its focus onto a few key areas.

“I saw that happen at Astra and I think the conditions are in place where we can do something very, very interesting at GSK,” he told Reuters.

GSK already has a foothold in HIV/infectious disease and respiratory, but wants to grow its oncology and immune-inflammation units.

The cancer focus is somewhat of a turnaround for GSK, which in 2014 traded away most of its oncology assets in exchange for the Novartis vaccines stable in a multibillion-dollar deal.

Since then, the drugmaker has invested in early-stage oncology R&D and is set to present early results for a BCMA-targeting multiple myeloma candidate at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology this week.