GlaxoSmithKline is hoping to file 20 new medicines by 2020, followed by a further 20 in the subsequent five-year period.

Showcasing its portfolio to investors in New York this week, the UK drug giant profiled a total of 40 new medicines and vaccines which, it claims, offer significant opportunity to drive long-term performance and deliver new benefits to patients.

Crucially, the company said around 80% of these could be ‘first-in-class’ with novel mechanisms of action, thus potentially offering benefits beyond current standards of care and, in some cases, radically transforming treatment. 

Seven medicines are now in advanced late-stage development and could launch within the next four years. These include Nucala (mepolizumab), a treatment for severe eosinophilic asthma, a US approval for which is expected imminently, and shingles jab Shingrix (zoster), on target for submission in the first half of next year. 

Sirukumab for rheumatoid arthritis, daprodustat for anaemia, cabotegravir for HIV,  a candidate combination vaccine for the prevention of bacterial meningitis and a new inhaled triple therapy for COPD are also said to be nearing the finish line.

Going further back, GSK also noted that in 2016/2017 it could potentially start Phase II development of around 30 new molecular entities and product line extensions, and Phase III development of 20 NMEs and PLEs, touting the strength of its earlier research pipeline.

“The level of innovation in this portfolio is substantial,” said GSK’s chief executive Sir Andrew Witty. “We believe this is critical in today’s operating environment as payors look to balance pressures of pricing and demand. It also provides us with confidence that this portfolio can generate significant value for shareholders and deliver widespread benefits to patients and consumers.”

Unsurprisingly, GSK remained tight-lipped over rumours, fuelled by a report in the Financial Times citing sources close to the situation, that Pfizer approached the firm with plans for a mega-merger before it made its move on Allergan.

GSK, Merck trial new cancer combo

Meanwhile, GSK and Merck & Co said they are trialling a new immunotherapy combination as a potential cancer treatment.

The firms announced the start of a Phase I, first-in-human trial assessing GSK’s investigational drug GSK3174998 as monotherapy and in combination with Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy Keytruda (pembrolizumab) in patients with locally advanced, recurrent or metastatic solid tumour(s) that have progressed after standard treatment. 

The companies are hoping that combining these two drugs with different actions on the immune system could help bring further treatment improvements for patients.