Vaccine trial a shot in the arm for Glaxosmithkline

Vaccine trial a shot in the arm for Glaxo: Pharma giant’s new Covid drug could be approved by the end of 2021

Glaxosmithkline is starting final-stage trials of another potential Covid-19 vaccine that could be approved by the end of 2021

In a major boost for under-fire boss Emma Walmsley, the pharmaceuticals group is pushing ahead with the phase III round of tests involving more than 35,000 adult volunteers. Phase III is the final stage before drugs firms seek approval from regulators.

It means GSK and its partner – French drug firm Sanofi – could have their jab approved in the final quarter of the year following a string of delays to earlier trials. 

In a major boost for under-fire boss Emma Walmsley (pictured), Glaxosmithkline is pushing ahead with the phase III round of tests involving more than 35,000 adult volunteers

The trials will be of particular interest because they will also investigate whether the vaccine can be used as a booster shot and whether it works on the coronavirus variants.

This is seen as critical to ending the pandemic and keeping the virus suppressed afterwards.

Roger Connor, GSK’s president of vaccines, said: ‘Further solutions for Covid-19 are very much needed to help reach people around the world, especially as the pandemic evolves and variants continue to emerge.

‘We are grateful to the volunteers who will take part in the trials and hope the results will add to the encouraging data we’ve seen so far so we can make the vaccine available as quickly as possible.’

Hours earlier, GSK’s antibody treatment for Covid patients was separately cleared for emergency use by US regulators, delivering another dose of welcome news for Walmsley (pictured).

The 51-year-old has been bracing for an assault by Elliott Management after the feared Wall Street activist took a multi-billion pound stake in GSK. 

However, there were claims yesterday that Elliott – notorious for agitating for change in boardrooms – was not planning to wage ‘an aggressive and politically contentious campaign’ against the chief executive’s plans.

The hedge fund is now said to have ruled out pushing for cuts to research spending or for a sale of the remaining pharmaceuticals and vaccines business after the consumer arm is spun off next year, according to the Times.

Similar commitments on Walmsley’s future were conspicuously absent, however.

And despite the pledges, Elliott Management, founded by hedge fund manager Paul Singer, is still said to have told other investors it is keeping its options open.

The activist is known for switching to aggressive tactics when it does not get its way. In recent years it has successfully taken on yoghurt group Danone, drinks maker SAB Miller and hospitality firm Whitbread, with Whitbread forced to speed up the separation and sale of coffee shop arm Costa.

GSK’s consumer split is set to complete in mid-2022 and will leave the ‘New GSK’ comprised of just the pharmaceuticals and vaccine businesses.

But analysts have questioned whether the four-year process could be sped up and whether Walmsley, who lacks a background in science, is the right person to lead the New GSK.

She hit back last month, saying: ‘I am not a scientist. I am a business leader.

‘The chief executive should be held accountable for results,’ she added.

Walmsley, a former non-executive director at drinks giant Diageo, is expected to set out her plans for GSK in more detail next month at an investor day, where she will also talk up some of the firm’s most promising potential new drugs.

Shares in GSK dipped 1 per cent, or 13.2p, to 1340p yesterday.