GlaxoSmithKline is expanding its influenza vaccine efforts through a joint R&D alliance with Shenzhen Neptunus. The goal: to tap the world’s biggest market and attempt to deliver flu shots to more than a billion people.
GlaxoSmithKline, on Tuesday, announced a joint venture with Chinese vaccine maker Shenzhen Neptunus to manufacture flu vaccines on Chinese soil. GSK will have a 40 percent stake in the endeavor in exchange for $34 million in cash and assets, with a plan to obtain a controlling share within the next two years. The profits reaped from the deal will be distributed between the two companies in proportion to their respective equity interest.
In exchange the 40 percent stake, Shenzhen Neptunus will have access to GSK’s adjuvant system, which allows the drugmaker to make a larger quantity of vaccines using a significantly lower amount of antigen, thereby lowering costs and boosting productivity.
GSK already has a presence in China, but does not manufacturer flu vaccines there. Neptunus will provide that local manufacturing capacity. GSK said that it is too early to speculate whether or not it will build new facilities or add new jobs in China based on this venture.
The two companies will initially concentrate on producing the seasonal influenza vaccine for China, Hong Kong, and Macau, and eventually produce pre-pandemic and pandemic influenza vaccines.
“This deal is really about working with a local company with proven experience that has access to the Chinese influenza antigens and other local strains,” GSK spokesperson Lisa Behrens told Pharm Exec on Wednesday. “We are going to be able to take a lot of their local expertise and culture and put that with some of the technology and experience manufacturing vaccines that GSK has.”
GSK has not announced plans to increase awareness of the flu vaccine or what community outreach it will do to encourage Chinese citizens to get a flu shot. According to Behrens, the current influenza vaccination rate in China is less than 2 percent.
At execution of the agreement, there will be a feasibility report that goes to the bureau of trading and investment in China to be reviewed and approved. The deal is expected to be approved by the end of the Q4 2009.
Last July, GSK announced that it was boosting its R&D personnel in China to 200, with plans to increase staff to 350 by 2009. No word yet as to whether that number has been met.