Company news: GSK goes big in Japan

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GlaxoSmithKline and Daiichi Sankyo announced they will be teaming up to create Japan's largest vaccine company. The joint effort will be a 50-50 partnership, with an initial investment of at least ¥100,000,000 ($1.2 million) in seed money, according to a GSK statement. The two companies will distribute vaccines for HPV, Rotavirus and Measles Rubella, among others. GSK told MM&M in an e-mail that it will temporarily move some GSK Japan employees to the joint venture. The spokesperson added that the new business unit will develop combination vaccines based on antigens from both companies. GSK's most recent earnings report showed that the company has seen its Japan sales grow 35% over the past three years, and sales of its HPV vaccine Cervarix more than doubled in Japan last year, the result of a national vaccination program. Overall vaccine sales fell 1% because of reduced demand for its H1N1 vaccine.

Columbia Laboratories announced Friday that it is reducing its headcount by 10, leaving it with a staff of 14 employees. The specialty pharma company said in a statement that the job losses will be among R&D and administrative positions. The announcement was made almost a week before its scheduled March 8 earnings call, and follows the FDA's rejection of its progesterone vaginal 8% gel that was intended to reduce the risk of pre-term birth. An approval would have garnered a $30 million commercial launch payment from Watson Pharmaceuticals, which has the rights to the gel.

Five days after the FDA approved its first quadrivalent vaccine to prevent seasonal influenza, GlaxoSmithKline announced it is sending its own four-part combination up for review by the FDA and the EU regulatory agencies. GSK's vaccine would be for adults and children ages 3 and up and would guard against A & B strains of the virus.  AstraZeneca subsidiary MedImmune beat GSK to the punch last week, when it got FDA approval for its FluMist Quadrivalent, which is for children and adults, ages 2 through 49. GSK said Monday that it is also proffering an H5N1 influenza vaccine for FDA approval. If approved, it would be for adults 18 and older

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