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British pharma giant Glaxo to invest €1 bn in Italy in four years, focus on vaccines

by Roberto Turno

GlaxoSmithKline, the British pharma giant, is doubling down and betting €1 billion on Italy over the next four years. It’s a substantial investment, one that may not getting its due acknowledgment in terms of GSK’s global growth plans. The firm anticipate an increase of activity and business in Italy starting with vaccination centers in Siena and Rosia, the R&D hub of the sector after GSK’s massive asset swap with Novartis was finalized last year.

It’s no accident that 60% of investment (€600 million) will be devoted to the strategic anti-meningitis vaccine, versus 40% dedicated to traditional pharmaceuticals. GSK is the world leader in vaccines, with £3.7 billion in revenue in the sector out of £23.9 billion in total turnover and the giant drug company expects continued growth over the next few years, with a goal of reaching £6 billion by 2010.

Luc Debruyne, global president of GSK Vaccines, explained it this way: “We have the motor of innovation in our portfolio. Because vaccines are innovation and, together, they are the fulcrum of prevention. They represent the sustainability not just of our company but of healthcare systems around the world.”

Italy, Debruyne explained, represents a not insignificant step in that progress. “We have acquired an excellence here, and we will continue to focus on this. Betting on research and production [in Italy] wasn’t a given. But we believe in it. We will invest €600 million over the next four years in excellence and in the quality of vaccines produced in Italy, safeguarding jobs in the process.”

Words and predictions reinforced by the current chairman and CEO of GSK Italia, Daniele Finocchiaro: “GSK seeks and invests in excellent opportunities around the world and in Italy it has found many of them: by combining investment in R&D in vaccines with clinical research and cooperative research on gene therapy with Telethon, together with facilities in Parma and Verona, we’ll come to about €1 billion in Italy in four years.”

The heart of the vaccination business is that against meningococcus B, thanks to the discovery in Siena by Professor Lino Rappuoli with Novartis. In Siena, there’s R&D, production is in Rosia.

From Tuscany, vaccines are exported around the world. GSK has 5,000 employees here (out of 101,000 around the world); total revenue of €1.6 billion —€673 million in pharmaceuticals, €464 million in vaccines, €320.5 million in consumer healthcare, €139 million in manufacturing. It is in third place in the retail market and first in vaccinations.

Of the total one billion investment, €500 million will go to the Siena R&D vaccine hub, €100 million to the plant in Rosia. In the pharma business, €300 million will be reserved for R&D, with great expectations for gene therapy against a grave form of immunodeficiency in children resulting from the research with Telethon, and €100 million will go to production.