GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK) has no plans “at the moment” to spin off its ViiV Healthcare Ltd. unit that is developing drugs to treat HIV, said Patrick Vallance, Glaxo’s president of pharmaceuticals research and development.
“ViiV exists as a standalone company of which we are majority shareholders,” he said in an interview in San Francisco, where he was attending JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s health- care investment conference. “It does all of the HIV work, there are no plans to change that.”
Asked if that meant the company has no plans for a spinoff, he said, “No, not at the moment. What that’s done is provided a huge focus around the HIV space, and it’s been an interesting lesson for GSK about how to get that sort of focus.”
In October, ViiV agreed to buy the rights to HIV treatments it developed with Shionogi & Co., giving the Japanese drugmaker a 10 percent stake in ViiV. As a result, Glaxo now owns 76.5 percent of ViiV and Pfizer Inc. (PFE:US) holds 13.5 percent.
ViiV submitted one of its drugs, dolutegravir, to regulatory authorities in the U.S., Europe and Canada for approval on Dec. 17. If dolutegravir is approved in the U.S. and Europe, Glaxo will be entitled to an extra 1.8 percent.
Dolutegravir may challenge the world’s best-selling AIDS medicine, made by Gilead Sciences Inc. The drug, combined with one of ViiV’s older treatments, reduced the HIV virus to undetectable levels in more people than Gilead’s Atripla in a clinical trial released in July.
Glaxo isn’t focused on spending billions of dollars to buy new drugs in late stages of testing, and is instead looking mostly at deals for early-stage compounds and technologies, Vallance said.
“We have a full late-stage pipeline and I am not sure we are desperate to bring in things,” he said. “We might actually be more interested in partnering out some things we have” in testing. In particular, he said the company is continuing to explore the possibility of finding a partner to commercialize its diabetes drug, albiglutide, a GLP-1 drug that would compete with Novo Nordisk A/S’s Victoza. The company plans to file for approval for that drug imminently, he said.
As for acquiring the company’s existing biotech partners such as Genmab A/S or Theravance Inc., “where it makes sense to do it we will do it,” Vallance said. “It is going to be a case-by-case basis.”
Glaxo also isn’t looking at a possible purchase of U.S. eye-care company Bausch & Lomb Inc., he said. Bausch & Lomb’s owner, Warburg Pincus LLC, hired Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to explore the sale of the business, two people with knowledge of the matter said last month.
“I don’t think that is on our radar,” Vallance said.
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