GSK opens new vaccines plant in Rockville, planning 200 fresh hires

GSK logo building
Rockville will be the base for 12 of GSK's vaccine programs.

GlaxoSmithKline's vaccines business is buoyant at the moment, and the opening of its first vaccine R&D facility in the U.S. yesterday gave the company a chance to celebrate that success.

The unit in Rockville, MD, officially opened for business yesterday, and will house 450 researchers—including 200 new hires—and be backed by $50 million in funding over the next two years. It will sit alongside Rixensart in Belgium and Siena in Italy as GSK's three main vaccine R&D centers.

GSK said Rockville will be the base for 12 of its vaccine programs, including shingles vaccine Shingrix which was filed for approval in October and candidates for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), group B streptococcus and dengue fever, as well as its recently-announced Zika virus project.

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The company has previously highlighted Rockville as an ideal location, thanks to its close proximity to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), PATH—which is already a GSK partner for malaria vaccine development—and the thriving bioscience hub in Washington DC.

It will also take the lead on GSK's biopreparedness model, which aims to develop new vaccines against emerging pathogens quickly and efficiently and make them available as cheaply as possible—with a "no profit/no loss" approach.

The opening underscores the importance of GSK's vaccine business, which was swelled last year by the purchase of Novartis' vaccine unit include meningitis B short Bexsero. 

Under GSK's management the portfolio has grown strongly, with GSK's vaccines chief medical officer Thomas Breuer telling Bloomberg in the summer that the company expects to deliver nine times the 2016 sales levels predicted by Novartis ahead of the takeover.  

Vaccines was GSK's standout business in its third-quarter results, with 18% growth £3.45 billion in the first nine months of the year on rising demand for Bexsero and strong flu vaccine sales.

"Our investment [in Rockville] signifies our commitment to discovering and developing new vaccines across a range of pressing public health priorities, including those important here in the U.S.", said Luc Debruyne, president of GSK Vaccines.

"We look forward to fruitful partnerships and collaborations in this community to advance the science of vaccines, and help improve health of millions of people around the world."

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