GSK Restructures Oncology Division

Sep 16, 2008

GlaxoSmithKline made good on its promise to shake things up in its research and development divisions, announcing last Friday the launch of its revamped oncology R&D organization, which brings together discovery and development teams under one umbrella.

GSK hopes the merger will enable scientists and clinicians to communicate research quicker and move information easily between branches, thereby speeding up the time it takes to move a new treatment through the development process.

“This is a deliberate attempt to blur the boundary of discovery and development,” said Perry Nisen, GSK senior vice president of cancer research. “To have a dedicated unit liberates us to have talent and expertise exclusively around oncology.”

The new oncology division will be tasked with finding new target areas to for developing treatments, running clinical trials, and boosting the development process to speed up the bevy of cancer drugs that are slowly making their way through its pipeline; these include Zunrisa, Tyverb, and MAGE-A3 ASCI.

GSK spent the last few years dicing its monolithic R&D divisions into smaller Centres for Excellence in Drug Discovery to bring more ownership and innovation to new drug design. The Wall Street Journal, noted in its Health Blog that the new oncology unit seems to go against the idea of smaller is better.

Nisen told Pharm Exec on Tuesday that the large oncology division would be broken down into drug performance units. “DPUs are bite-sized units of people who are focused in key areas in an almost biopharm-like way, without having to be encumbered by democracy,” Nisen said.

The restructured oncology division is expected to suffer some layoffs as part of a 2 percent reduction in total R&D workforce announced in June. The group is also transitioning to one base of operations

“All partners [must] adjust themselves to deal with changes,” Nisen said. “We must get away from the insularity that everything has to be done internally. That has been a part of GSK’s strategy, particularly in India and China. I think that the concept of externalization and finding talent is part of the strategic agenda of all of the therapeutic areas.”