[Ip-health] FT: GlaxoSmith Kline in oncology push with $350m UK biotech deal

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Sun Jun 1 23:16:33 PDT 2014


June 2, 2014 12:01 am
GlaxoSmith Kline in oncology push with $350m UK biotech deal

By Andrew Ward, Pharmaceuticals Correspondent
©Reuters <http://www.ft.com/servicestools/terms/reuters>

GlaxoSmithKline <http://markets.ft.com/tearsheets/performance.asp?s=uk:GSK> has
struck a deal potentially worth more than $350m to develop new cancer drugs
with a UK biotech company, less than six weeks after agreeing to sell
its existing
oncology products
<http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/2bc1c1c0-c9e6-11e3-ac05-00144feabdc0.html> to
Novartis <http://markets.ft.com/tearsheets/performance.asp?s=ch:NOVN>.

Under the agreement to be announced on Monday, GSK will pay Adaptimmune as
much as $350m over the next seven years, subject to development milestones
being met. Further payments would be due in subsequent years if GSK
exercises all its options and targets continue to be met. In addition,
Adaptimmune would receive sales royalties on any products that reach market

Working with the Oxford-based biotech, GSK will develop cell-based cancer
therapies that involve re-engineering patients’ white blood cells to
improve the body’s ability to fight tumours.

The deal shows that GSK has not given up on cancer despite its $16bn
disposal in April. At the time of that deal, GSK said it did not have
enough scale in the oncology market to compete effectively with its
existing treatments for skin cancer, breast cancer and leukaemia.

However, Patrick Vallance, president of pharmaceutical research and
development for GSK, said it would be wrong to interpret the Novartis deal
as a full-scale retreat from oncology.

“We won’t always be the best company to commercialise products but we will
continue to focus on [oncology] R&D,” he said.

Once a new product was ready for market, GSK would decide whether it could
generate most value by doing its own commercialisation or instead seeking a
partner or buyer.

James Noble, Adaptimmune chief executive, said the privately owned company
had a choice of five potential partners, including three other top 10
drugmakers, but chose GSK because it promised the most collaborative

The transaction will put GSK back in the race for a new generation of
oncology treatments that harness the body’s immune system to hunt and
destroy cancer cells.

Bristol-Myers Squibb
<http://markets.ft.com/tearsheets/performance.asp?s=us:BMY>, Merck & Co
<http://markets.ft.com/tearsheets/performance.asp?s=us:MRK>, Roche
<http://markets.ft.com/tearsheets/performance.asp?s=ch:RO>and AstraZeneca
<http://markets.ft.com/tearsheets/performance.asp?s=uk:AZN>are leading the
charge with a class of medicines called checkpoint inhibitors, which some
analysts have likened to HIV drugs in their potential to extend life

However, the Adaptimmune deal will put GSK alongside Novartis in pursuing
an alternative form of immunotherapy that involves taking disease-fighting
“T-cells” out of the body and modifying them. Once reinjected, the cells
bind on to cancer cells and destroy them.

Analysts have cautioned that the field is shaping up to be fiercely
competitive, but Mr Vallance said there was room for multiple players and
techniques. “The idea of a silver bullet for cancer is not right. It’s
going to be a combination of approaches.”

Adaptimmune’s T-cell receptor engineering technology targets a cancer
antigen called NY-ESO-1. Early-stage trials in the US involving multiple
myeloma, melanoma, sarcoma and ovarian cancer have shown encouraging
results, with European trials due to start soon.

GSK will have an option on the NY-ESO-1 programme through clinical proof of
concept, anticipated during 2016, and, on exercise, will assume full
responsibility for the programme. The companies will also explore other
potential cancer targets for the technology.

Mr Noble said development work would be done at Adaptimmune’s laboratories
in Oxfordshire – boosting efforts to promote the so-called “golden
triangle” around Oxford, Cambridge and London as a globally competitive
biotech hub.

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