GlaxoSmithKline R&D chief Vallance to leave for government job: FT

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GlaxoSmithKline’s long-standing president of R&D, Patrick Vallance, is said to be standing down.

This is according to people “briefed on the situation” and quoted by London’s Financial Times. Vallance, who has been at the helm of the Big Pharma’s research for around six years, is reportedly leaving for a top science advisory post for the U.K. government.

According to the report, he will become the country’s next chief scientific adviser, providing counsel to the prime minister and cabinet, as well as heading up the Government Office for Science (GOS), which aims to boost the quality of scientific evidence and advice in government.

This role is currently taken up by Professor Sir Mark Walport, who has been in the role since 2013 but is not set to leave until next year. Professor Chris Whitty is currently the interim government chief scientific adviser, having taken up the post just two months ago.

Vallance has had an uneasy tenure in terms of R&D results, something that along with weak financials looked to have taken the scalp of its CEO, Sir Andrew Witty. He was replaced this year by Emma Walmsley, who immediately swung the ax across a number of R&D programs as she sought to refocus on core therapy areas.

This also comes amid the troubled appointment of Luke Miels from AstraZeneca, who now helps GSK decide which drugs to work on.

Walmsley’s plan is to more closely align R&D to commercial operations and boost R&D output and approvals, which have not been coming thick and fast of late for the Big Pharma.

The FT reports that Vallance has been under pressure over GSK’s R&D performance, adding that “One person briefed on the situation said he had interpreted the restructuring as a criticism.”

Vallance has also been a key voice in the company’s push for greater clinical trial transparency, being the only pharma company to sign up to the transparency lobby group AllTrials, and has struck a different tone to many of his colleagues in the biopharma world.

Talking to me about this last year, Vallance said: “I have been a strong advocate for this [clinical trial transparency] from my time as a clinician and academic and of course retained that commitment when I joined GSK. Fundamentally I believe that good science demands that we must make data available for others to scrutinize: it can prevent unnecessary duplication of research and, ultimately, it has the potential to benefit patient care.

“I know concerns have been raised about greater transparency introducing a competitive disadvantage but I don’t see it. What should we be afraid of? Say a new side effect comes to light for one of our medicines, or a scientist discovers new possibilities for a medicine, why wouldn’t we want to know as soon as possible? I really do not see a competitive disadvantage and I see a compelling societal need to do it.”

If he does leave the company, it will lose a strong transparency proponent, but this could prove to be AllTrials’ gain if he does take the U.K. government role and has the ear of the prime minister.

GSK told FierceBiotech it would not be commenting on the reports, while the government's cabinet office also refused to discuss the reports. 

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