Photo credit: GSK

GlaxoSmithKline Chief Executive, Emma Wamsley is keeping her promise to cut the drugmaker’s pharmaceutical portfolio — the company said today that it is handing its rare disease gene therapy drugs to Orchard Therapeutics. 

The deal will not move the numbers for Britain’s biggest drugmaker financially, but it proves that Walmsley is making progress in reshaping the company since her arrival a year ago. 


GlaxoSmithKline CEO Reshuffles Leadership With Execs From Google, Novartis and Teva


The strategic review of the rare disease unit was first announced in July last year, as part of a wide-ranging overhaul intended to narrow the focus of drug research and gain profits in the core pharmaceutical business. 

The transaction announced today, will give GlaxoSmithKline a 19.9% stake in unlisted Orchard Therapeutics, a seat on its board and future royalties and milestone payments linked to the commercial success of the drugs, reports Reuters. 

GlaxoSmithKline will also receive a small upfront payment, however, the size is yet not disclosed, according to a spokesman. 

At a time where pharma companies see the field of rare disease as a ripe investment, GlaxoSmithKline is swimming against the tide by getting out of the rich profit source. But in commercial terms, GlaxoSmithKline’s assets in its rare disease portfolio are somewhat small, and the drugmaker is continuing to invest in cell and gene therapies, focusing on oncology. 

Having spent hundreds of millions of dollars recently in its gene-based cell therapies for cancer, Strimvelis and its other gene therapies for rare conditions sit better with Orchard Therapeutics.