LimmaTech sets up as de facto GSK vaccine R&D unit in wake of $190M buyout

LimmaTech Biologics, a spillover from the $190 million (€169 million) takeover of GlycoVaxyn by GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK), has opened its doors. The biotech is starting life with GlycoVaxyn's research operation and a 5-year agreement to pump novel bioconjugate antigen‐based vaccines into GSK's pipeline.

GSK struck a deal to acquire full ownership of GlycoVaxyn in February to add a clutch of early-stage vaccines to its pipeline. While the assets were the motivation for the takeover, the deal also gave GSK ownership of the research operation behind the candidates. Instead of shuttering or swallowing the biotech-scale operation, GSK tasked the management team at GlycoVaxyn with setting up a new company built around the existing research operation. Schlieren, Switzerland-based LimmaTech is the result.

The 60-person biotech is an independent company with strong ties to GSK. For at least the next 5 years, vaccines discovered by LimmaTech will feed into GSK's pipeline. Outside of vaccines, LimmaTech is free to build an in-house pipeline. The aim is to fuse Big Pharma support with biotech agility. "Whilst we aim to retain the agility and innovativeness of a small biotech company in LimmaTech, we will benefit tremendously from the support, expertise and sheer development power that GSK brings," LimmaTech Managing Director Veronica Gambillara Fonck said in a statement.

In the recent past, GSK has sought to strike the balance described by Fonck and infuse its in-house operations with biotech-style thinking by dividing R&D up into smaller development teams. But the vaccine operation has changed tack this year, with the strategy now being to consolidate R&D at three hubs in Rixensart, Belgium, Siena, Italy, and Rockville, MD. The rejig leaves a research site such as the one that powered GlycoVaxyn to its $190 million buyout looking out of place at GSK. Instead of having the site fight for attention alongside the hubs, GSK is giving the R&D unit its independence.

- read the release (PDF)

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