Glaxo charges into Asia vaccine markets

GlaxoSmithKline has gone on a vaccine-making binge in Asia, with a Chinese joint venture on flu shots and a new plant in Singapore to make pneumonia-fighters. The company inked an alliance with Shenzhen Neptunus to make flu vaccines for markets in China, Hong Kong and Macau; Glaxo gets a 40 percent initial stake in the JV in exchange for a contribution of cash and assets worth $34 million. Within two years, GSK plans to take a majority interest in the partnership.

Meanwhile, Glaxo chief Andrew Witty (photo) went to Singapore to open its largest vaccine plant in Asia. Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said his city-state is "proud to be a part of this project" and said work at the $600 million, 85,000-square-meter plant could save 3 million lives per year worldwide. Over the next two years the plant will ramp up to 1,100 workers, setting up production processes and quality controls, Witty said. Glaxo expects commercial production to begin there in 2011.

At the Singapore press conference, Witty also offered his views on the global economy: sluggish, with continued economic contraction. "This could be a relatively anemic economic backdrop for a while," he said. "I'm not yet confident that anything is very different today than it was three months ago. I think we're still seeing an environment very similar to the one we saw in the second half of last year."

- see the China JV story from Reuters
- check out Bernama's Singapore coverage
- get more from the Straits Times