Vaccines Focus Sees GSK CEO Walmsley Land 51% pay Rise

GSK CEO Dame Emma Walmsley secures pay packet of £12.7 million thanks to a big increase in performance-related pay

 GSK CEO Emma Walmsley's pay rose 51%, to £12.7mn (US$16mn) in 2023, thanks to a big increase in performance-related pay, the British pharma’s annual report shows.

Walmsley's total pay included £11.1mn in performance bonuses and awards. Her pay in 2022 was £8.4mn.

GSK beat market estimates in the Q$ 2023, as it completed a first full year since spinning off its consumer health business, Haleon.

Walmsley, who took up the CEO role in 2017, has been central to to GSK honing its focus on vaccines and infectious diseases, and shifting its HIV focus to prevention therapies.

Early in 2023, GSK launched Arexvy, the world’s first respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) adult vaccine, for those aged 60 and above. RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms.

Walmsley’s pay rise comes just three years after moves to have her replaced as CEO. That came when activist investor Elliott Management  asked GSK’s board to look for new leadership, and suggested Walmsley reapply for her job.

Elliott Management were among investors to question whether Walmsley was the right person to lead New GSK because she lacks a scientific background. 

Walmsley was a former L’Oréal executive, before replacing Sir Andrew Witty as GSK CEO. 

An FT profile of Walmsley in 2016 reported colleagues as describing her as a leader "who mixes a personable style with a steely focus”. 

Walmsley: AI 'holy grail of pharma R&D'

In related news, Walmsley has told Fortune that the productivity of R&D in pharma is problem.

“It costs billions, takes decades and 90% of it doesn’t work,” she said. Walmsley added that applying AI to research “is the holy grail” because “that is where we can create real material value”.

Walmsley, who sits on the board of Microsoft, also said gains in research from the use of AI, although potentially huge, might take some time to achieve.

She said: “Like most extraordinary innovations, we underestimate how absolutely massive the transformation is going to be, and we probably overestimate the pace at which it is going to happen.”

She was speaking at the Lake Nona Impact Forum, which is held in partnership with Fortune. It is an annual event that attracts around 300 top CEOs, healthcare innovators and thought leaders. The focus of this year’s event was health and wellness. 

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