AstraZeneca Wins Injunction, Blocking Former Exec from Joining GSK


A High Court judge in London granted AstraZeneca an injunction, temporarily blocking a former executive from joining rival pharma GlaxoSmithKline, according to a report by the Financial Times.

The court order comes two weeks after AstraZeneca filed a lawsuit against the former exec in order to keep sensitive information from leaking to his new employer GSK, according to a Bloomberg report. The case is set to go on trial next month.

Two of Britain’s biggest pharmaceutical firms are in a legal tussle with Chris Sheldon, who held several senior roles at AstraZeneca before he left the company last month. According to the report, GSK brought Sheldon over from AstraZeneca in an effort to strengthen its drug pipeline across various therapeutic areas, including cancer. Sheldon was supposed to start work at GSK Thursday.

Sheldon had been with AstraZeneca for nearly two decades. At the time of his resignation, he was the company’s vice president and head of investor relations. Before that, he served as the global head of business development & licensing of the company's oncology R&D. In 2021, in exchange for $774,000 in company shares, Sheldon signed a non-compete agreement that runs for six months after his resignation. He has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

In response to the court injunction, a GSK spokesperson told BioSpace: “Whilst we are disappointed by this interim decision, we continue to believe that Dr. Sheldon’s position is strong and are confident that he will be able to begin his new role at GSK following the main hearing in October. Regardless of the next hearing’s outcome, however, we look forward to Dr. Sheldon joining in the coming months and welcome the expertise he will bring to GSK.”

AstraZeneca declined to comment on the matter.

Close Competition in Cancer

Both British pharmaceuticals are heavy hitters in the oncology space.

AstraZeneca’s oncology program was its biggest earner in the first half of this year, netting the company $3.8 billion in revenue, representing a 22% growth at current exchange rates. Much revenue came from its non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) drug Tagrisso (Osimertinib), which raked in some $2.7 billion.

AstraZeneca's fastest-growing asset is the antibody-drug conjugate Enhertu (trastuzumab deruxtecan). The drug was first approved in 2019 and earned the company $29 million in H1 2022, reflecting a more than sixfold growth in sales.

In the first half of this year, GSK reported oncology sales of around $325.22 million, corresponding to a 19% growth at constant exchange rates. 

In its quest to boost its oncology program, GSK entered a global collaboration agreement with Mersana Therapeutics last month, reserving the exclusive option to co-develop XMT-2056, an investigational ADC being assessed for different cancers. In April, GSK dropped $1.9 billion to acquire California biopharma Sierra Oncology and its rare cancer portfolio.

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