GSK has agreed to acquire the asthma drug specialist Aiolos Bio for a deal worth up to $1.4bn, as it aims to strengthen its respiratory and inflammatory asset pipeline.

GSK will pay $1bn upfront to acquire the Anglo-American biopharma, with a further $400m on the line in success-based regulatory milestones, according to a 9 January press release. The companies did not reveal when the deal is expected to close.

GSK’s acquisition will give the company access to Aiolos’ AIO-001, a monoclonal antibody that is ready to start Phase II trials for the treatment of asthma in adults. The asset targets thymic stromal lymphopoietin which, according to the companies, is a driver of inflammation in diseases such as asthma. GSK will also assess the drug’s potential use in the treatment of chronic rhinosinusitis with nasal polyps.

AIO-001 has the potential to be administered every six months – far less frequently than current treatments used to manage symptoms of asthma. US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved Xolair (omalizumab) developed by Novartis, for example, is administered every two to four weeks. AstraZeneca’s Tezspire (tezepelumab-ekko), FDA-approved for severe asthma in adults, is administered monthly.

GSK’s chief scientific officer Tim Wood said AIO-001 could expand the reach of the company’s respiratory biologics portfolio, highlighting “the 40% of severe asthma patients with low T2 inflammation where treatment options are still needed”.

In October 2023, Aiolos launched in a $245m Series A round. The company licensed AIO-001 from Jiangsu Hengrui Pharmaceuticals for use outside of Greater China. The Chinese pharma company is also in line for milestone and royalty-based payments from GSK.

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GSK is the fourth big pharma to make moves amid the J P Morgan Healthcare Conference currently being held in San Francisco, US. Johnson & Johnson spent $2bn to acquire Ambrx, boosting its oncology portfolio. MSD also strengthened its cancer assets by acquiring T-cell engager specialist Harpoon Therapeutics for $680m. Novartis, having already spent $250m to acquire Calypso Biotech, is reportedly in advanced talks to acquire Cytokinetics for $10bn, according to Reuters.