GlaxoSmithKline Dumps $250 Million Into 'Smart Labs' That Will House 3,200 R&D Staffers

Published: Nov 16, 2016

GlaxoSmithKline Dumps $250 Million Into 'Smart Labs' That Will House 3,200 R&D Staffers November 16, 2016
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

PHILADELPHIA – GlaxoSmithKline ’s Smart Space concept is coming to Philadelphia as part of a $250 million redesign of its R&D facility.

In September, GSK unveiled its Smart Space concept at its London area-based research and development facility earlier this year. Dubbed the Immersive Intelligent Manufacturing, the 7,500 square foot “smart space” facility was developed to demonstrate how technology can be combined in a manufacturing line and environment. The spaces include advanced technology tools to improve research as well as business development. Each space is designated by a color scheme to help with identification for employees. The site is being used to accelerate technology adoption within GSK. One feature of the new London-area facility is a technologically advanced changing room that features “augmented reality attire” that will notify the wearer if the protective clothing has been put on correctly.

John Lepore, senior vice president for GSK’s R&D pipeline, told the Inquirer that the company is not building new space, but renovating them to become the “most modern labs probably in the industry."

The Inquirer did not provide many details of what the Pennsylvania site will include, but from the brief description it provided, it seems the design will largely follow the London facility.

Now that concept is coming to GSK’s research and development site in Montgomery County, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Monday. GSK will spend about $250 million to develop the smart spaces at its Pennsylvania site. The updating of the Pennsylvania facility comes as GSK is in the process of consolidating its global drug research and discovery operations into two main sites, the Montgomery County facility and the one near London. The Inquirer said that by 2018, about 40 percent of GSK’s R&D workforce will be based at its Pennsylvania site in Upper Providence. Headcount at the site will expand to about 3,200 over the next two years as GSK employees from sites in Upper Merion, Penn. and Durham, N.C. will relocate to the Pennsylvania facility to take advantage of the Smart Space concept. Currently there are about 1,600 employees at the facility, the Inquire said.

Last year, GSK undertook a restructuring program that was expected to save the company about $1.6 billion, although it resulted in a large number of layoffs.

The GSK R&D site redesign and consolidation comes as there are questions of whether or not the company will break up into smaller entities. That type of revolutionary change is something that some key investors, such as Neil Woodford, a top 20 stockholder, have been hoping to see. The company recently tapped its first female chief executive, Emma Walmsley. Walmsley’s appointment as Sir Andrew Witty’s successor makes her the first woman to helm a top global drugmaker. Walmsley will steer the company into a new era. Although the company reported a 5 percent growth in emerging markets in 2015, sales in Europe were flat and in the U.S. sales were down about 10 percent as the result of formulary and contract changes to asthma drug Advair. Glaxo is under pressure to develop new drugs that aren’t threatened by generics.

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