emma walmsley gsk

Emma Walmsley, Chief Executive Officer, GlaxoSmithKline

GlaxoSmithKline Chief Executive Officer Emma Walmsley continues to reshuffle and renew her leadership team to shape the new strategic direction for the company’s pharmaceutical division. Following her inauguration, Walmsley has replaced about 50 of GSK’s top managers.

Positions being replaced are senior leaders who report to the company’s executive team – the top strata of the company that Walmsley has also moulded to suit her vision for the company in the face of declining revenue from generic challenges to its asthma drug, Advair and a lack of blockbuster drugs coming out of its programming. The company closed more than 30 preclinical and clinical programs and said it will allocate 80 percent of its research-and-development budget to respiratory and HIV/infectious diseases. Additionally, GSK plans to strengthen its oncology and immuno-inflammation areas

GSK said Walmsley is “seeking to bring new ideas and skills and to increase diversity to the team,” according to the company statement to Bloomberg.

Bloomberg listed some of the new hires including former Novartis employees Tobias Hestler, who becomes Chief Financial Officer of GKS’s consumer business and Christine Roth, head of GSK’s oncology franchise.

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By changing senior management team members and bringing in top executives like Luke Miels and Hal Barron to run the pharma and R&D divisions respectively, Walmsley is demonstrating her commitment to focus on the company’s R&D programming.

On Jan. 1, Barron, who was hired away from Google’s Calico, took over as GSK’s chief scientific officer and head of the company’s research and development division. While at Calico, Barron was the driver behind that company’s use of cutting-edge technologies in drug development and when he was at Roche, Barron became well-known for his work in the development of oncological drugs.

When his hiring was announced in November, Barron said he was honoured to have been selected as the head of R&D given the company’s “renewed focus on discovering and developing transformational new medicines.” He said GSK is a company with a history of innovation and believes there is a “significant opportunity” to accelerate the development of new therapies.

Big pharma is in need of fresh thinking as pipelines stagnate and the rising costs of R&D show no sign of abating. Genetically validated targets are known to show higher success rates and with UK Biobank’s genetic information coming online in 2020 and Open Targets showing proms in the pre-competitive arena, a rich new seam of actionable targets may be ripe for the picking in coming years. Combining this with new modalities is surely the great white hope for big new leaps in medicine.

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