Drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline has had a "miserable" year, says Forbes' Robert Langreth. Sales are "stagnant"; it's facing the loss of its patent on asthma drug Advair; its diabetes treatment, Avandia, is off the market in Europe and use of the drug was restricted in the US after the company was accused of minimizing data that show it caused heart problems; and in October, it paid $750 million to settle charges that it produced tainted drugs. And on top of everything else, Langreth adds, the Glaxo labs haven't produced "a big new hit" in years. But the company's CEO, Andrew Witty, proposed a solution to the company's many problems — turning it into a "collection of entrepreneurial biotech outfits," 40 in all, that are focused on doing high-risk scientific research in stem cells, gene therapy for rare diseases, and epigenetics, among other things, Langreth says. Glaxo now has 18 new drugs in late-stage trials, almost all of which are for new classes of medicine, instead of "me-too drugs." The company's first success on this new path may come next year if FDA approves Glaxo's new lupus drug, Benlysta, Langreth adds. And because of the new structure of the company, the researchers there are finding that they have more freedom to try new ideas and innovate. "This could be a new model for drug discovery," biotech veteran Spiros Jamas told Forbes.
A Biotech 'Cure'
Jan 05, 2011