New R&D structure pays off for GSK

Nov. 15, 2013 @ 11:45 PM

The British drug development company GlaxoSmithKline is “seeing the fruits” of changes in its research and development structure with new products such as Breo Ellipta, a new respiratory drug that launched in the U.S. weeks ago, a company executive said in an interview Thursday.

“GlaxoSmithKline has had quite a (number) of new products that have been reviewed by the FDA in the last year or so, of which Breo Ellipta is an important product,” said Jose Bartolome, the senior vice president for the company’s U.S. respiratory and MedCenter pharmaceutical business. Bartolome said the respiratory division has its U.S. headquarters in the Durham portion of Research Triangle Park.

The company has changed from a traditional “industrial model” of research and development toward using smaller, more interactive teams, said Juan Carlos Molina, a spokesman for GlaxoSmithKline.

And he said that’s helped the company’s pipeline.

Breo Ellipta, an inhaled treatment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, was developed with California-based Theravance Inc. But Bartolome said the Research Triangle Park’s research and development staff also played a role.

And while the treatment is currently being manufactured in the United Kingdom, it will eventually also be made in North Carolina in Zebulon.

“The Zebulon plant is going through finishing up construction of the manufacturing line, and should be up and running in a year or so,” Bartolome said.

Breo Ellipta is expected to be important for the company as it will eventually face generic competition for another key respiratory product, said Damien Conover, the director of equity analysis for the investment research firm Morningstar Inc.

Conover said sales of the asthma treatment Advair make up close to 20 percent of the company’s overall sales. GlaxoSmithKline will eventually face generic competition for the product. He said Breo Ellipta is an extension of the respiratory business, which he said is an area of strength for the drug developer.

“With that huge contribution to the business (from Advair), it’s really critical that they … continue … with these next-generation products,” he said.