Pharma industry events ‘to ban Vectura’ following £1.1bn takeover by tobacco giant

September 20, 2021

Staff from Wiltshire specialist inhaler firm Vectura have been barred from attending a pharmaceutical industry conference days after its controversial £1.1bn acquisition by tobacco group Philip Morris International (PMI).

In an apparent rebuff by academics over the deal, Chippenham-based Vectura was stripped of its sponsorship of a major lung health conference due to take place this week and also prevented from participating in it. 

Media reports say other industry events are also ending, or considering terminating, all links with Vectura, which has its roots in a spin-out from the University of Bath.

According to The Guardian, a letter coordinated by a number of academics to event organiser Oxford Global said that unless the sponsorship and invitation to Vectura to participate was withdrawn, they would no longer be able to take part in the conference.

Professional societies for specialist respiratory scientists and clinicians do not allow them to participate in any events with links to the tobacco industry.

The move comes just days after PMI, which makes Marlboro cigarettes, completed its takeover of Vectura despite a storm of protest from dozens of healthcare charities and public health bodies, including Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation. 

PMI’s offer of just over £1bn outbid an earlier £958m approach from global private equity giant Carlyle, which had initially been backed by Vectura’s board. 

PMI is investing billions of pounds to move away from its core tobacco business and has said it could stop selling cigarettes in the UK within 10 years as it focuses on alternatives. 

These include nicotine gum after it acquired Danish producer Fertin Pharma for $820m and heated tobacco. It has spent at least $8bn on smoking alternatives such as its IQOS devices, which were launched in the UK two years ago.

PMI chief executive Jacek Olczak said last week: “We are very excited about the critical role Vectura will play in our ‘beyond-nicotine’ strategy and look forward to working with Vectura’s scientists and providing them with the resources and expertise to grow their business.”

This would help PMI achieve its goal of generating at least $1bn in net revenues from beyond nicotine products by 2025, he said.

Founded in 1997, Vectura has grown by developing inhalable dry-powder drugs that treat lung conditions such as asthma, emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Its pioneering approach led to new ways of treating asthma and lung diseases and it earned strong revenues from collaborations and licence agreements with global pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies such as Novartis, Sandoz and GlaxoSmithKline.

In 2016 it merged with London-based Skyepharma, creating one of the UK’s leading specialist pharmaceutical firms with a combined turnover of £1bn.


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