The drug industry’s response to the HIV epidemic is widely viewed as a story of sterling R&D success. With nearly 30 drugs in five different classes and lifelong three-drug treatment as the standard of care, innovation now centers on developing fixed-dose combinations to minimize dosing requirements and the risk of HIV mutations. Given this primacy of combinations, it’s apt that GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer are doing a little combining of their own—by spinning off their separate HIV portfolios and pipelines into a single independent entity.
Called ViiV Healthcare, the subsidiary aims to catch entrepreneurial fire by operating like any other struggling biotech bankrolled entirely by its own portfolio. First year sales are projected to be $2.4 billion. The terms of the deal reflect the relative valuations of each firm’s HIV assets, with Glaxo at 85 percent equity and Pfizer at 15 percent. In fact, this so-called joint venture looks more like a Glaxo experiment in business development. ViiV CEO Dominique Limet is the former head of personalized medicine at the British firm, while eight of the nine members of the ViiV executive team are also Glaxo alums. Cynics have noted that Pfizer may have been only too happy to unload its lone HIV drug, Selzentry, on Glaxo, whose globe-trotting commercial HIV operation can handle the well-intentioned but star-crossed product.