By Michael Fitzhugh
GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK) is raising its stake in Theravance (THRX), adding $129 million to support the pair’s shared pipeline of drugs for late stage asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other ailments.
The private placement raises to 19% GSK’s share of Theravance, building on an investment GSK made in the company when they first formed their partnership to develop novel long-acting Beta2 agonists for the treatment of respiratory diseases in 2002.
Chief among the products of their collaboration to date is Relovair, heir to the throne of Advair, GSK’s best-selling medicine for asthma attacks and COPD. Advair loses patent protection in 2011.
But even without a generic rival breathing down its neck, GSK is keen to gain approval for Relovair’s improved dosing scheme - once daily, versus twice daily with Advair. The duo also face some urgency in gaining approval for Relovair, which is working through late-stage clinical trials at a rate that could allow GSK to beat Novartis’ alternative inhaled medicine, QMF149, to market.
Moncef Slaoui, GSK’s chairman of research and development, says the two companies have built a strong relationship since inking their first agreement. He says GSK’s expanded investment in its South San Francisco, Calif.,-based partner reflects the confidence GSK has in the Relovair program and the wider late-stage respiratory pipeline built up through the collaboration.