Glaxosmithkline pins hopes on vaccines pipeline after shingles jab generates blockbuster sales
Glaxosmithkline is well advanced in developing a suite of vaccines which will guard against respiratory viruses in children and lung diseases in adults – part of a pipeline of 17 ground-breaking treatments.
The British drugs giant is the world leader in vaccines with a turnover of £5.9billion in the first nine months of the year.
The company’s Shingrix vaccine, used to defend against shingles, is a global blockbuster, widely available in the US, Germany and Canada, and has generated £1.3billion of sales so far in the current financial year – double the sales of a year earlier.
Glaxo boss Emma Walmsley believes that the vaccine breakthroughs, together with advances in immunology and new treatments for cancer, will ensure that Glaxo’s future is secured
The speed of the take-off in Shingrix has led Glaxo to update sales projections twice this year and the group is adding a new production line to meet unexpectedly strong global demand.
The company is projecting that up to 20m doses could be administered in 2020 and the vaccination has been evaluated as the most successful biopharma launch in the US for a decade.
But even though Glaxo is a British company, and the NHS is regarded as one of the world’s best test beds for new medicines and vaccines, Shingrix has not yet been assessed as a cost-effective treatment here.
The delay means that patients will continue to suffer from the acute pain, suffering and temporary disfigurement which can accompany shingles.
New vaccines developed in Glaxo’s own labs and a new family of injections against childhood meningitis, acquired from Novartis in 2018, means that the British firm now controls some 30 per cent of the world’s vaccine market.
It is currently testing a combined meningitis vaccine which will protect against most forms of the disease.
Chief executive Emma Walmsley believes that the vaccine breakthroughs, together with advances in immunology and new treatments for cancer, will ensure that Glaxo’s future is secured as a leading-edge pharmaceuticals company.
The group plans to split and float off its consumer healthcare arm to existing investors in 2021 or beyond.
Most of the vaccine advances have been developed at Glaxo’s Belgium-based labs, which first came to attention for developing Cervarix, a drug administered to girls as a protection against cervical cancers.
Among the most promising of its next-generation vaccines is a treatment for RSV, a respiratory virus which affects mothers, children and older adults and causes acute bronchiolitis in children.
It is estimated that RSV leads to as many as 177,000 serious illnesses a year in the US and causes 16,000 deaths, making it far more dangerous than flu.
The company has been conducting trials on the vaccine and plans to report the data some time this year, bringing it closer to approval by regulatory authorities and the market.
It is looking for similar success in vaccines for the treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD), a group of lung conditions affecting adults which include emphysema, chronic bronchitis and other conditions leading to blocked airwaves.
Glaxo scientists also are working on the world’s first new TB vaccine in around 100 years and believe it could be invaluable to much of the developing world.
A second-stage study has recently been published but it needs a larger study before the compound can be approved for use.