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GSK to cut more jobs, reduce research spending

GlaxoSmithKline plans to eliminate an undisclosed number of employees as the drug maker expands its efforts to reduce costs.

The latest job cuts follow thousands of layoffs worldwide during the past two years and again will likely hurt GSK's Triangle workforce and the local economy. CEO Andrew Witty is slashing expenses to offset slowing sales of blockbuster drugs.

GSK announced this morning that it plans to expand previous cost-cutting efforts to save nearly $800 million more a year by 2012. The move will reduce research and development spending, which will effect its R&D hubs, including in Research Triangle Park.

"Where possible, we will continue to try to preserve jobs," Witty said in a prepared statement. "As before, we will not be providing targets for job reductions and we will announce restructuring outcomes once employees" and unions are notified.

As part of the shift, GSK will stop research into new drugs for depression and pain, he said.

GSK to announce more job cuts, report says

Drug maker GlaxoSmithKline, which has cut hundreds of Triangle jobs in recent years, will announce another round of layoffs Thursday when it reports quarterly earnings, a British newspaper reports.

The London-based corporation employs about 5,000 people in this region, mostly at its North American headquarters in Research Triangle Park. GSK has been slashing expenses under CEO Andrew Witty to offset slowing sales of blockbuster drugs amid increasing competition from cheaper, generic medicines.

Now the company is preparing to announce plans to eliminate 4,000 jobs, nearly half at its research centers, the Sunday Times of London reports. GSK "will scale down activities at research facilities in Britain, across Europe and in the United States as it builds its activities in emerging markets," the newspaper reports.

GSK's ongoing layoffs could hurt the Triangle's economy, as more highly paid researchers and scientists are thrown out of work. The company employs about 100,000 worldwide.

GlaxoSmithKline donates $1.5 million to Morehead Planetarium

GlaxoSmithKline is getting its name in the stars.

The pharmaceutical company gave $1.5 million to help convert the Star Theater at the Morehead Planetarium in Chapel Hill to digital from analog technology.

The theater will be renamed the GlaxoSmithKline Fulldome Theater, officials announced today.

GSK has supported programs at Morehead for years. The British company has its North American headquarters in Research Triangle Park and employs about 5,000 people in the Triangle.

The company "is committed to making positive contributions to the communities where employees live and work and to invest in health and education programs," GSK senior vice president Janice Whitaker said in a prepared statement.

Such donations also help corporations build their brand names.

The theater is closed during January for the conversion and is scheduled to reopen Feb. 5. Morehead officials expect more than 160,000 visitors, including 85,000 schoolchildren, during the next year.

GSK shares fell as Europe cuts flu-shot orders

Weakening demand for H1N1 flu vaccines in Europe is cooling interest in GlaxoSmithKline's stock.

Shares of the British drug maker have fallen this week as Germany, France cut orders for GSK's vaccine.  The U.K. and Belgium also are considering reducing orders, fueling worries about overcapacity, Bloomberg News reported.

"We are in discussions now with GSK about the vaccine coming in and are under discussions about the surplus we already have," said David Salisbury, director of immunization for the U.S. Department of Health. GSK has delivered about 23.9 million doses to the U.K., he added.

GSK has paid $1 billion in Paxil suits, Bloomberg reports

GlaxoSmithKline has paid nearly $1 billion to resolve lawsuits over Paxil since it began selling the antidepressant in 1993, Bloomberg News reported, citing court records and people familiar with the cases.

The total included about $390 million for suicides or attempted suicides said to be linked to the drug, Bloomberg reported.

GSK, the British drugmaker with a North American headquarters in Research Triangle Park, hasn't disclosed a settlement total. Spokeswoman Sarah Alspach declined to confirm the $1 billion figure.

GSK wins U.S. approval for H1N1 vaccine

GlaxoSmithKline has won approval from U.S. regulators to sell its vaccine to fight H1N1, making it the last major drug manufacturer to receive clearance in this country.

The British company with its North American headquarters in Research Triangle Park also said that the U.S. Health Department has ordered 7.6 million doses of the swine flu shot.

GSK will make the vaccine at its factory in Quebec. The company expects to begin shipping the U.S. doses in December and provide all of them by the end of the year.

In September, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved vaccines made by four of the five companies expected to manufacture swine flu vaccines. At that time, GSK officials said they expected to win approval "as soon as possible."

GSK was left out because of challenges making a vaccine without an adjuvant, an ingredient added to boost potency so more people can be treated, Bloomberg News reported.

U.S. vaccine supplies have been held up by production snags at two drugmakers and GSK's delays in winning approval, Bloomberg reported.

GlaxoSmithKline reports stronger third-quarter profit

GlaxoSmithKline's third-quarter profit jumped 12 percent, beating analyst expectations.

Sales at the British drug maker rose 3 percent, despite another decline in its U.S. pharmaceuticals business amid increasing pressure from generic rivals.

"It is clear that improvements in performance for our U.S. business will take time," CEO Andrew Witty said in a prepared statement this morning.

"Our third quarter performance reinforces our expectations of an improved performance in the second half of 2009," he added. "In the fourth quarter, I expect further improvement including significant sales generated from our influenza products."

GSK, which employs about 5,000 people at its North American headquarters in Research Triangle Park and a drug factory in Zebulon, sells a wide range of products including the asthma treatment Advair, flu drug Relenza and anti-smoking aid Nicorette.

The company has been cutting costs and hundreds of local jobs as it tries to offset slowing sales of some of its biggest medicines. Under Witty, GSK also has been buying other companies to bolster its pipeline of products.

Drug maker Pozen reports stronger profit and revenue

Pozen reported stronger profit and revenue for the third quarter, driven mostly by a $10 million payment the Chapel Hill drug maker received after seeking approval for a new treatment for arthritis.

In June, Pozen got the money from partner AstraZeneca following a filing seeking approval for the medicine from the Food and Drug Administration. Pozen also is seeing increasing revenue from Treximet, a migraine treatment sold by another partner, GlaxoSmithKline.

Pozen's products combine medications to reduce pain and inflammation with fewer gastrointestinal side effects than existing drugs. The company also is developing a safer form of aspirin to treat cardiovascular disease and stroke.

GSK plans big biotech campus in England

GlaxoSmithKline plans to build a massive biotechnology science park at its campus in Stevenage, England, as part of a broader effort to foster new companies working on promising medicines.

During a visit to Raleigh in June, CEO Andrew Witty said that the British drug maker was considering setting up new facilities for biotech startups. Witty said the company would look at adding facilities at its campus in Research Triangle Park.

Ironically, in today's announcement, GSK notes that its planned $270 million biotech campus about 30 miles of London "will compete with those in Boston, California and North Carolina."

And Witty said the campus would "affirm the U.K. as a global hub for the life-sciences industry."

GSK is working with the British government and other groups to pay for the campus, which it expects to open in 2011. The campus would be a base for up to 1,500 scientists and hold 25 companies.

Former GSK executive Viehbacher seeking new acquisitions

So what's Chris Viehbacher, who quit as GlaxoSmithKline's top executive in Research Triangle Park earlier this year, up to these days?

Sounds like the same strategy of his former GSK counterparts: seeking acquisitions of promising vaccines, biotechnology drugs and other new medicines.

Viehbacher, who is now CEO of Paris-based Sanofi-Aventis, told Bloomberg News that "there will be more shopping on the horizon." Sanofi has already spent $9 billion this year buying health-care companies and products to boost revenue and bolster its pipeline of new products.

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