JPM: With Tesaro staff and expertise in the mix, GSK gears up for 3 oncology launches in 2020

GSK
GSK expects 3 regulatory approvals for cancer drugs in 2020, CEO Emma Walmsley said Tuesday. (Eric Sagonowsky)

SAN FRANCISCO—Ahead of last year’s J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, GlaxoSmithKline showed it was serious about its jump back into cancer with its $5.1 billion buyout of oncology biotech Tesaro. Now it's clear that the deal didn't just bring along its PARP inhibitor, Zejula, CEO Emma Walmsley said Tuesday.

With the deal, GSK also picked up a lot of know-how, and with new experts and sales savvy to leverage, it's gearing up for three oncology launches in 2020.

RELATED: JPM need to know, Day 2: GSK's rollout agenda, Alexion's longshot, bluebird's turkey—and just who knows Pfizer?

Tesaro “provided us with highly skilled employees with deep expertise in oncology,” GSK CEO Emma Walmsley said during her Tuesday JPM presentation. Those employees spanned R&D, regulatory, medical affairs and market access, plus “talented and competitive” sales reps.

The Tesaro staff made the GSK cancer group's team stronger, she said, and since then, GSK has “continued to build on this with some exceptional hires and with the changes we have made to our sales rep incentives and [practitioner] engagement policies.” 

RELATED: GlaxoSmithKline, looking to pump up in new favorite oncology, buys Tesaro for $5.1B 

Those sales reps, medical affairs and access pros will pitch in on the three rollouts Walmsley mentioned: Zejula's hoped-for new use in first-line ovarian cancer maintenance, plus two brand-new meds—belantamab mafodotin in relapsed/refractory multiple myeloma and dostarlimab, another Tesaro addition, in second-line endometrial cancer.

All of the moves come after GSK several years back exited the cancer field. After CEO Emma Walmsley joined the drugmaker in 2017 and recruited new R&D head Hal Barron, the company has made a concerted effort to strengthen its position in cancer.

Tesaro was part of that push, and while some investors and market watchers panned the move, GSK insisted the PARP market wasn’t fully appreciated.

RELATED: GlaxoSmithKline's investors have come around on Tesaro deal, executive says   

During 2019, GSK had more chances to make its case for the deal. In July, the drugmaker posted positive results in first-line ovarian cancer maintenance, and in October, the company won an expanded approval in ovarian cancer to challenge AstraZeneca and Merck’s Lynparza. 

Aside from GSK’s 2020 cancer launches, the company is looking for approvals this year for its long-acting HIV combo of cabotegravir and rilpivirine, fostemsavir for HIV, and daprodustat in Japan for renal anemia due to chronic kidney disease, Walmsley said Tuesday. Further, the company also expects an FDA nod for the triple-combo respiratory drug Trelegy in asthma. 

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