GSK to consolidate vaccines R&D ahead of Novartis unit takeover

By Gareth Macdonald

- Last updated on GMT

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GSK site in Montana
GSK site in Montana
GSK will close a vaccine R&D lab in Montana and establish a centralised development hub as it prepares to takeover Novartis jabs unit.

The UK drugmaker confirmed it will shut down its R&D lab in Hamilton, Montana this weekend telling the Missoulian​ the move will cost 27 employees their jobs. Manufacturing at the site will continue, including the production of the adjuvant Monophosphoryl lipid A.

GSK also said it plans to set up a centralised vaccine R&D site, but that it has not yet decided on a site. The firm is due to take over Novartis’ vaccine​ unit this year, which is a shrewd move according to Fiona Cincotta, senior market analyst at finspreads.

She told the “asset swap with Novartis should provide a more stable outlook going forward and more predictable growth once the deal is closed in the first half of 2015​.”

The deal – which saw GSK hand its cancer business to Novartis – added dedicated manufacturing sites in India and China and several vaccines to the UK firm’s pipeline, including the meningitis vaccine Bexsero​.

Adding to its pipeline will be key to GSK’s performance in 2015 according to Cincotta who told us: “GSK will be glad to see the back of 2014 and the Chief executive Andrew Witty will now be under considerable pressure after failing to return the drug maker to growth."

She added that: “Market conditions are increasingly tough especially in the US where competition is fierce” citing falling sales of GSK’s asthma blockbuster Advair as a major negative for the firm last year.

Last week, GSK reported turnover of £6.2bn for the fourth quarter of 2014, down a massive 8% from a year earlier. However despite the downbeat figures, the firm beat analysts’ expectations which helped it's share price climb 3%.

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