GlaxoSmithKline Poaches Another Top Exec—This Time From Pfizer

Published: Jul 14, 2017

GlaxoSmithKline Poaches Another Top Exec—This Time from Pfizer July 13, 2017
By Mark Terry, Breaking News Staff

Tony Wood, senior vice president of medicinal sciences for Pfizer is leaving the company to join London-based GlaxoSmithKline .

According to a communication between GSK and FierceBiotech, Wood will be GSK’s senior vice president, platform technology and science. He will join GSK in October.

“In this role,” the company told FierceBiotech in an email, “he will be responsible for delivering the critical end-to-end scientific and technical platform that supports the discovery and development of our medicines. This appointment reflects our ongoing commitment to the successful delivery of our deep mid-stage pipeline and enhancing our R&D capabilities, particularly in areas such as computational sciences.”

This is another example of shifts in the C-suites at GSK after Emma Walmsley took over the top spot from Sir Andrew Witty earlier this year. In January, Abbas Hussain, global head of GSK’s pharmaceuticals group, indicated he was leaving the company by the end of this year. He will be replaced by Luke Miels, formerly executive vice president of AstraZeneca .

Whether these executive changes reflect a larger strategic change on the part of Walmsley remains to be seen, although some investors have expressed concern. Prior to GSK, Walmsley worked for cosmetic company L’Oreal. Some investors and analysts think she will focus less on research and development that can lead to newer, high-profit drugs, and more on consumer products.

GSK’s pipeline is built on vaccines, infectious diseases and respiratory medications. It does have NY-ESO-1, an immuno-oncology product in Phase II clinical trials in partnership with Adaptimmune . The company, though, isn’t generally identified with its oncology portfolio, especially since it swapped out its cancer drug business in a $20 billion deal with Novartis for its vaccines and consumer health portfolio in 2014 and 2015.

It does appear to be pushing harder into the rare diseases market, where it has several drugs in late-stage development. GSK informed FierceBiotech that Wood is replacing John Baldoni, who will be heading a new GSK team “focused on enhancing drug discovery through the use of in silico technology, including artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning.” That suggests a foray into medical devices.

This supports GSK’s joint venture with Alphabet’s Verily Life Sciences to invest $715 million in bioelectronics. In August 2016, the two companies formed Galvani Bioelectronics to develop and commercialize bioelectronics medicines. GSK said in a statement at the time, “Bioelectronic medicine is a relatively new scientific field that aims to tackle a wide range of chronic diseases

Jefferies sent out a note to clients this morning, saying, “Emma Walmsley’s strategy review will be a focus for investors, and may include some ‘pruning’ of the pipeline. Meanwhile, the threat of Advair generics has now been pushed back into 2018.”

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