GlaxoSmithKline receives boost in China after winning regulatory approval for one of its cancer vaccines
Focus: Glaxo boss Emma Walmsley
GlaxoSmithKline has received a boost in China after winning regulatory approval for one of its cancer vaccines.
The development provides a shot in the arm for boss Emma Walmsley, who is trying to shift the focus of the group to developing new medicines and vaccines ahead of the planned demerger of the firm’s consumer arm this summer.
A two-dose course of its cervarix jab was approved for use on Chinese girls aged between nine and 14 in a bid to prevent cervical cancer.
Cervarix is designed to combat two types of Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a disease that can sometimes cause changes to skin cells that can turn cancerous. In 2020, cervical cancer caused 59,000 deaths in China.
The vaccine is the first foreign-made jab to be approved by Chinese regulators for a two-dose programme, putting the group ahead of global rivals in the fiercely competitive Chinese vaccine market. It also marks a turning point in relations between GSK and China following a 2014 scandal in which it was accused of bribing doctors and hospitals to promote its products.
The former head of GSK’s China business Mark Reilly was convicted of bribery while the company was hit with one of the biggest corporate fines in the country’s history, of around £355m.
Walmsley’s strategy is to list its consumer division, Haleon, on the London Stock Exchange in July, leaving GSK with its biopharma business that develops drugs and vaccines.
The chief executive has been battling attempts to undermine her from inside and outside the company, with activist investor Elliott Management wanting the consumer health business sold outright.
Haleon owns several famous brands, such as Sensodyne toothpaste and Centrum vitamins. Hellmann’s mayonnaise maker Unilever previously attempted a £50billion swoop on the division earlier this year only to be slapped down.
Swiss food giant Nestle also considered a bid but backed out amid concerns a deal would be too complex.
GSK is also facing internal issues after workers at several of its UK plants voted to strike last month over pay.
Additionally, it suffered a massive shareholder rebellion over executive pay at its AGM in early May. Walmsley took home £8.2m last year.