Brainstorm Health: Gates Foundation and Gene Tech, Glaxo Snags Sin, Flesh-Eating Bacteria

April 18, 2018, 9:09 PM UTC

Good afternoon, readers! This is Sy.

GlaxoSmithKline is still at it: The British pharmaceutical mainstay, long known for its consumer health, prescription lung disease, and vaccines franchises, has snatched up another (former) rival cancer vet to its team in a bid to challenge and partner with bigger players in the oncology space.

This time, the executive is Kevin Sin. A longtime business-side oncology leader at Roche arm Genentech, Sin will now be working alongside Glaxo’s new R&D chief Hal Barron—whose appointment as the company’s chief scientific officer and R&D president last year signaled the kinds of pipeline shifts that still-fresh CEO Emma Walmsley has on her mind—when it comes to the licensing, partnerships, and acquisitions side of the company’s renewed cancer strategy.

Walmsley has rejiggered both the staff and structure of GSK in her young tenure, doubling down on the firm’s consumer health business and asserting an interest in the new-wave cancer immune drug development field even as competitors like Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and others have gotten off to a head start.

Another important Glaxo foot soldier in this effort is Axel Hoos, the immuno-oncology expert whose division has become a prominent source of R&D hope for the company. I recently spoke with Hoos about how GSK wants to make waves in the space—stay tuned for more on that conversation.

Read on for the day’s news.


Bill Gates and the gene therapy war on malaria. (FortuneThe Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has committed another $1 billion in its long-standing efforts to fight malaria. (bringing the total to about $2 billion in grants in that specific effort). One striking part of Gates' financial activism is his enthusiasm for hot new technologies to fuel the public health cause; for instance, the foundation awarded a $1.4 million grant to the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia to create a synthetic DNA-based vaccine for malaria.


UK drug industry faces Brexit headwinds. European drug makers and industry analysts are voicing concerns that a spat over the way drug approvals work in the EU following Brexit could disrupt the pharmaceutical supply to patients. The European Medicines Agency (EMA), the EU's equivalent of the FDA, is already moving from its home base in London to Amsterdam once Brexit becomes official. Prime Minister Theresa May has stated hopes that Britain can still maintain close ties with important regulatory agencies like the EMA. (Reuters)


Former First Lady Barbara Bush dies from COPD. Former First Lady Barbara Bush died on Tuesday aged 92. She suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), a surprisingly common lung condition that gets surprisingly little attention. By the numbers: the lung-wasting disease afflicts nearly 16 million Americans and is the third most deadly condition in the country. (Fortune)


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