GlaxoSmithKline on Thursday announced that it was selling the rights to the experimental therapy tapinarof to Roivant Sciences' Dermavant Sciences unit in all global markets excluding China in a deal worth as much as 250 million pounds ($330 million). John Lepore, senior vice president, R&D pipeline at GlaxoSmithKline, remarked "we have taken a strategic decision to divest or partner medicines in our R&D portfolio that are a better fit for other companies allowing us to concentrate our resources on other promising assets."
A spokeswoman from GlaxoSmithKline further said that "this was the result of a strategic decision to no longer focus on developing assets that are topical and exclusively a dermatology medicine.”
Under the agreed terms, GlaxoSmithKline will receive an upfront payment of 150 million pounds ($198 million), in addition to milestone payments of up to 100 million pounds ($132 million). Upon completion of the transaction, which is expected in the second half of the year, Dermavant will hold global rights to the preclinical topical back-up programme to tapinarof and gain responsibility for all development milestones owed to third parties.
GlaxoSmithKline noted that tapinarof, a therapeutic aryl hydrocarbon receptor modulator (TAMA), has been evaluated in a number of Phase I and Phase II trials. The drugmaker said that in a Phase IIb study of 227 adults with plaque psoriasis, the drug was associated with significantly greater rates of clear or almost clear skin than vehicle. Meanwhile, in a separate mid-stage study of patients with atopic dermatitis, the therapy was superior to vehicle regarding rates of improvement of skin after 12 weeks of treatment.
The news comes after GlaxoSmithKline named Hal Barron as president of R&D in November last year, while Kevin Sim was subsequently hired to lead worldwide business development for pharmaceuticals R&D as part of the many executive changes implemented  by CEO Emma Walmsley at the UK drugmaker.
For related analysis, read ViewPoints: Growth headwinds illustrate size of task ahead at GlaxoSmithKline .