In April 2014, GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis inked a megadeal unlike any in biopharmaceutical history. First, the two created a joint venture consumer healthcare business. A second part of the deal involved GSK divesting its marketed oncology portfolio and related R&D activities to its AKT inhibitor, as well as the granting of commercialization partner rights for future oncology products to Novartis for $16 billion. (For more on this, be sure to check out Is Oncology Back At GSK? Did It Ever Leave? on page 25). The third component included GSK’s acquisition of the Novartis global vaccines business (excluding influenza vaccines) for $5.25 billion, an amount nearly equal to the unit’s total sales revenue for 2015 ($5.38 billion)!
And although the company has been in the vaccine business for a long time, the increased responsibility that results from supplying vaccines to 90 percent of the world’s countries is an obligation Luc Debruyne, president of GSK Vaccines, does not take lightly. “When it comes to vaccines, if you don’t have scale, you just can’t be operationally effective,” says Debruyne. With over 16,000 people, three R&D centers, and 17 manufacturing sites making up GSK’s vaccine business, the company certainly has scale. Following Debruyne’s participation as a speaker at this year’s BIO International Convention, he took time out to share how the Novartis vaccine integration has been going, as well as why GSK sees vaccines as a growth opportunity — when so many others don’t.