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GSK sells eczema and psoriasis drug to Dermavant for £250m

The British group is selling off assets outside core therapy areas to boost R&D

GSK

GlaxoSmithKline’s new game plan for R&D under new R&D chief Hal Barron continues to take shape, and in the latest move the firm has sold off its lead immuno-inflammation disease asset.

Psoriasis and atopic dermatitis (eczema) candidate tapinarof is being transferred to Roivant Sciences group company Dermavant in return for £150m upfront and another £100m in the offing if it meets development targets. The deal covers all markets except for China.

Tapinarof, a therapeutic aryl hydrocarbon receptor modulating agent (TAMA), is being developed as a once-daily, topical treatment for the skin disorders that could provide an alternative to topical and oral steroids, which have side effects. In phase II trials the drug had a dose-dependent impact on plaque psoriasis lesions, and it is ready to move to phase III testing.

The pharma group is taking a leaf out of AstraZeneca’s book, zeroing in on core therapeutic categories and selling off assets outside them in a bid to reinvigorate its R&D, which by its own admission has underperformed its big pharma peers in recent years and left it with a launch gap until 2020.

“We have taken a strategic decision to divest or partner medicines in our R&D portfolio that are a better fit for other companies allowing us to concentrate our resources on other promising assets," said John Lepore, GSK’s senior vice president, R&D pipeline.

GSK’s tighter focus on respiratory, HIV, oncology, and vaccines has already seen it cull 30 pipeline programmes and offload its rare disease assets to Orchard Therapeutics. The cut included IL-6 inhibitor sirukumab for rheumatoid arthritis, which left tapinarof as the lead candidate in its immuno-inflammation programme. And with the latter now going, its position in inflammatory diseases is looking increasingly truncated.

That may be because the sector is getting increasingly crowded, with a new crop of therapies for psoriasis and atopic dermatitis already on or nearing the market.

In the case of psoriasis, that includes not only new therapies such as Novartis’ IL-17 inhibitor Cosentyx (secukinumab) and Johnson & Johnson’s IL-23/IL-12 inhibitor Tremfya (guselkumab), but also the emergence of biosimilars for older TNF inhibitor blockbusters pegging back prices. Those are for the more severe end of the symptom spectrum, but there’s plenty coming through for milder forms of the disease too, including oral JAK inhibitors such as Pfizer’s Xeljanz (tofacitinib) and Incyte/Eli Lilly’s Olumiant (baricitinib).

Meanwhile, in atopic dermatitis, Regeneron and Sanofi’s IL4/IL-13 inhibitor Dupixent (dupilumab) was the first biologic to be approved for the condition but seems to have stalled a little, and the pipeline for that indication is also packed with late-stage projects.

Article by
Phil Taylor

13th July 2018

From: Sales

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