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Observations BMJ Confidential

Patrick Vallance: Inquisitive and geeky

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 05 March 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h1144


Patrick Vallance, who heads research and development at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), is a physician and clinical pharmacologist who swapped the chair of medicine at University College London for the challenge of reviving GSK’s drug pipeline. Not afraid of bold initiatives, he reshaped GSK’s research function into smaller discovery performance units that integrate disciplines and compete for budgets, and he has struck deals with biotech companies—most recently with Adaptimmune to develop new cancer drugs, six months after GSK agreed to sell its existing oncology portfolio to Novartis. Research productivity at GSK is high, and many new medicines have been approved in the past two years.

What was your earliest ambition?

To be a palaeontologist. Or rather, as a 5 year old, to be a dinosaur hunter.

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

Clinically, Tom Pilkington, professor of medicine at St George’s Hospital Medical School in London, who was eccentric, brilliant, and empathetic. In virtually every other aspect of my career Joe Collier has been key (professor of medicines policy at St George’s who taught me as a …

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