Medicines research | Science & innovation | Research & Development | GlaxoSmithKline

Medicines research

At GSK, we select areas for R&D that meet one of the following two criteria:

  • conditions where totally new treatments are needed, either because no medicines exist or symptom control can be improved
  • circumstances where the scientific understanding of a disease process is ‘ripe’ for translation

This second point may seem odd, but not all areas of scientific knowledge are at the same point. In some areas, the biological causes of disease are still not well enough understood to point to possible options for new medicines.  

We research and develop medicines and vaccines in a wide range of disease areas. These include:


Through our specialist dermatology company Stiefel, we investigate conditions of the skin, how it can be protected and how its diseases can be addressed.

Immuno-inflammatory diseases

Many illnesses are caused by disorders in the body's natural immune system.  Sometimes this can lead to inflammatory diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease. We are seeking to identify compounds to modify these disorders.

Infectious diseases

We are researching new medicines that can treat or prevent infections caused by organisms such as viruses, bacteria and other parasites.

Metabolic pathways

As science begins to discover the pathways that cause conditions like heart failure or diabetes, we investigate novel methods to correct these disorders.

Neurodegeneration and inflammation

We are researching new medicines that can treat conditions of the central nervous system, including multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. These are linked to degeneration and inflammation in the brain and nervous system.


Advances in science are allowing us to better understand the genetic causes and types of cancer. Our oncology research seeks out new vaccines and treatment compounds that target genetic pathways that are directly linked to various types of cancer.


We are looking at interventions that can treat or prevent visual deterioration or loss.

Rare diseases

We are seeking new treatment options for some of the 6000 diseases identified as affecting a small percentage of the population.

Respiratory disease

We are investigating new treatments for conditions that affect the lung and the respiratory tract, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.


We are developing biological preparations that improve our bodies' ability to fight infection and disease.

Different ways to deliver new therapies

Medicines come in many different formats. Well known variations include injections, pills and inhaled medicines. But from a pharmaceutical standpoint, new medicines are classified differently. They are known as biopharmaceuticals, small molecules and vaccines.

At GSK, we have expertise in all of these areas. This allows us to investigate a range of different methods when we look at new treatments for diseases.


These are proteins like immunoglobulins or hormones that our bodies produce naturally, but which have been synthesised by a manufacturing process. Insulin was one of the first 'biopharmaceuticals' but today there are more complicated compounds like monoclonal antibodies.

Small molecules

These are significantly smaller in size compared to a biopharmaceutical and can be made in a lab by chemical manufacturing. Ultimately these can be taken in many forms including pills, injections, creams or inhalation.


Vaccination is a process that stimulates the body’s own immune system to create antibodies to a particular threat, and thereby protect itself. Most vaccines are injected, but some are given by mouth – for instance, the polio vaccine.

Our principle areas of research

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