GSK pumps $29M into infectious disease R&D hub in Beijing

GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) will pump in $29 million for a Beijing-based R&D institute to tackle infectious disease and antibiotic resistance health threats in China by working in tandem with academics and regulators. 

The Institute for Infectious Diseases and Public Health will draw on 20 in-house GSK researchers to start and will look to existing drugs in the U.K. drugmaker's portfolio as well as clinical trial stage work on HIV and multidrug-resistant bacterial infections, China Daily reported.

"GSK has made a commitment to China and its people, we will be a company 'In China, With China, and For China' setting new standards as a responsible multinational operating in the country," GSK CEO Andrew Witty told the newspaper.

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GSK CEO Andrew Witty

"GSK is well positioned to be a catalyst in creating high impact scientific partnerships that can address public health issues by driving joint scientific research; and improving global coordination in addressing major health challenges."

GSK has taken a number of steps to deepen ties to Chinese companies and academics since it paid a whopping $489 million fine in 2015 after pleading guilty to bribing doctors and healthcare executives to buy its drugs.

GSK's ViiV Healthcare unit last year signed a deal to have Shanghai-based Desano Pharmaceuticals manufacture HIV therapy Tivicay, setting the stage for greater access at lower cost.

Multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) fits in with areas of preclinical development for GSK and high unmet medical need in China with nearly 930,000 patients diagnosed with TB in China in 2014, according to China Daily.

GSK in 2014 began work with Switzerland's BioVersys and France's University of Lille to develop a new preclinical candidate against MDR-TB. The China Daily story said GSK intends to file its primary new drug application in China if its candidate makes the grade, though it did not name the therapy.

A spokesman for GSK was not immediately available to clarify.

A Xinhua story this month also pointed out that the country has had some success in the area. New infection rates for tuberculosis in China have dropped, the National Health and Family Planning Commission said, bolstering a trend that has seen morbidity decline to 63.4 in 100,000 in 2015 from 71.1 in 100,000 in 2011.

On antibiotic resistance, China has been regularly identified along with India as a hotspot of overprescription and potential environmental contamination from haphazard antibiotic manufacture.

"Antimicrobial resistance is a serious healthcare problem in China with high resistance rates of most common bacteria to clinically important antimicrobial agents," Patrick Vallance, president, Pharmaceuticals R&D at GSK, told the newspaper.

"As the current chair of the G20, China is ideally placed to catalyze global efforts in combating antimicrobial resistance."

The institute will be led by Zhi Hong, senior vice president and head of the Infectious Diseases R&D Unit at GSK. He will split his time between the institute and his base in the U.S., China Daily said.

A GSK R&D shop set up in Shanghai in 2007 has been a mainstay of drug development efforts in China, though there was a hiccup in 2013 over allegations that a key researcher misrepresented data from an autoimmune study published in Nature Medicine that was eventually retracted.               

- here's the China Daily story

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