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Shot in the arm for Glaxo after respiratory jab breakthrough

GSK notches up a victory in its efforts to develop a vaccine for a common respiratory illness

GSK notched up a victory in its efforts to develop a vaccine for a common respiratory illness. 

The FTSE100 pharma giant said its jab to protect those aged over 60 against respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) showed ‘statistically significant and clinically meaningful’ effectiveness in a major trial. 

RSV is one of the most common disease-causing viruses and the majority of cases are mild. 

Defying critics: GSK chief executive Emma Walmsley

However, it is a leading cause of pneumonia in toddlers and the elderly and causes 360,000 hospitalisations and over 24,000 deaths worldwide each year. 

The positive data gives GSK a boost in the race to develop an RSV vaccine, with US rivals Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson also working on developing their own jabs.

It is boost for GSK chief executive Emma Walmsley who is under pressure from activist investors – including US hedge fund Elliott Management – to bolster the company’s pipeline of drugs. 

GSK said it planned to begin talks with medical regulators ‘immediately’ and expected to submit its vaccine for approval in the second half of this year. 

Analysts at Barclays said the results were one of the ‘most important’ for GSK this year. ‘It was really important for GSK to hit this catalyst and it certainly did,’ they added. Broker Berenberg said GSK was ‘knocking out the competition’ and the company was positioned well against the efforts of its rivals. 

Walmsley has been under increasing pressure from activist investors to bolster GSK’s share price. Elliott has also questioned her ability to improve the business given her lack of a scientific background. 

However, it is thought the announcement will help to ward off the activists as an RSV jab will have the potential to generate billions of pounds in sales, with the adult market for the drug thought to be worth around £5billion a year. 

It could also prove as profitable as the company’s successful shingles vaccine Shingrix.