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GSK’s R&D head Vallance departs, possibly for government role

An independent panel of scientists proposed the UK role to Vallance, according to the FT


GlaxoSmithKline’s head of R&D Patrick Vallance could be en route to a UK government position as chief scientific advisor, according to reports.

Vallance has been leading the R&D operations of GSK for more nearly six years, and his departure comes in the midst of a shake-up of the UK big pharma group under new chief executive Emma Walmsley, who took over from previous CEO Sir Andrew Witty in April.

News of the departure - reported by the Financial Times - was previously covered on the Research Fortnight website, which said Vallance had been proposed by an independent panel of scientists along with another candidate with a background in the physical sciences.

The last two incumbents, including current chief scientific advisor Professor Sir Mark Walpole who is not due to leave the role until next year, have also come from a life sciences background. The chief science advisor role provides counsel to the prime minister and the cabinet, and is tasked with improving the quality and use of scientific evidence in government as head of the Government Office for Science (GOS).

If confirmed, the departure comes after a lean period of R&D success at GSK, which Walmsley acknowledged when taking over the company, saying that the company is not due for a major new wave of product launches until the early 2020s.

She also said that it must make the most of near-term product launches - Shingrix shingles vaccine, dolutegravir-based HIV products and its triple therapy for chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder - to see it through in the interim.

While CEO-designate Walmsley appointed Luke Miels, previously head of AstraZeneca’s EU operations, to take the lead on development at the company, pointing to his “strong record of commercial execution” in prior roles.

Since taking over she has also stripped out a number of lower priority R&D programmes and products and placed GSK’s rare disease unit under a review to see if it should be retained. The FT suggests Vallance has been under pressure and had “interpreted the restructuring as a criticism” but also notes that his primary reason for leaving is the allure of the high-profile government job.

A shake-up of senior management has been credited with an improvement in R&D productivity at AZ under current CEO Pascal Soriot and R&D chief Sean Bohen.

Article by
Phil Taylor

6th November 2017

From: Research



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