Health July 2012

Easier Access to Vaccines

New joint venture to develop and market prophylactics in Japan

  • Novel vaccines to combat lack of awareness
  • Plans to counter investor concerns over FDI
  • Long-term ties through CSR and innovation

A new vaccines company that brings together two of the biggest and most innovative firms in the business was launched in Japan on 2 July. Its aim is to ensure that people in this country have access to innovative vaccines already available in other developed nations.

Japan Vaccine Co., Ltd. is 50% owned by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), with the remaining stake held by the domestic drug maker Daiichi Sankyo Co., Ltd.

The joint venture, capitalised at ¥100mn, will invest in the clinical development, marketing and sale of prophylactic vaccines in Japan and has, from the outset, set itself the target of becoming the largest firm in the sector in this market.

“This collaboration marks another step in our strategy to build our presence in key growth markets, and will create the first and largest company dedicated solely to vaccines in Japan”, said Christophe Weber, president designate of GlaxoSmithKline Vaccines.

“We are very pleased to be partnering with Daiichi Sankyo, a highly regarded firm and an established leader in Japan”, he added. “Both firms have strong track records in commercialisation and, in combination, will create further significant economies of scale in the development and distribution of vaccines in the Japanese market”.

Based in Brentford, west London, GSK has long been committed to the Japanese market and, before the launch of Japan Vaccine Co., had set itself the target of releasing between 30 and 40 new products here over the coming five years.

Its ambitions for the Japanese market were to increase market share and accelerate growth in order to serve patients better, with three areas of strategic focus identified as growing existing products, introducing new vaccines to Japan, and entering the field of oncology, for which the company is launching a series of new products.

Away from the business side of its operations, GSK has underlined its commitment to Japan through the creation, in February 2010, of a global unit to tackle rare diseases and, in April this year, the setting up within the Japan-based company of a Rare Diseases Medicine Development Centre.

GSK has also been one of the leading providers of assistance to people affected by last year’s Great East Japan Earthquake and the tsunami that it triggered, both in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy and over the longer term, such as by establishing a scholarship for pharmacy students from the areas that were hardest hit.

The new joint venture is designed to mesh with GSK’s other initiatives.

One element of the project is to promote interest in, and understanding of, prophylactic vaccines, which will help reduce the risk of infection among members of the public and subsequently reduce the financial burden. Another key aim will be to bring novel vaccines to Japan, where there is a lack of awareness concerning which vaccines are available, and domestic firms are not able to produce vaccines to meet patients’ needs. Yet another area of concern is that global manufacturers find it difficult to invest in Japan, a plight that Japan Vaccine Co. intends to counter.

Both firms will be able to bring significant strengths to the joint venture, Daiichi Sankyo benefitting from a high-quality manufacturing base in Japan, and a strong domestic sales and distribution network.

GSK will add to that its deep knowledge of development in global markets, vast amounts of efficacy and safety data, and its cutting-edge technology, including the use of innovative adjuvant systems.

GSK Japan has received approval for no fewer than 69 products since 2000, and has a further 50 projects in Phase 2 and above of its research and development pipeline. Key vaccine products in its armoury include Cervarix, the first cervical cancer vaccine in Japan that has been prescribed for more than 2mn women here; and Rotarix, the first rotavirus gastroentiritis vaccine issued for infants in Japan.

“Our aim is to be a company that contributes to protecting people of all ages in Japan, from infants to the elderly, through the supply of vaccines”, said Philippe Fauchet, president of GSK Japan. “We also intend to become a vaccine company that is trusted by society for playing a key role in public health”.