Rarely do you see such plain speaking from a pharma CEO. But Mr. Witty paints a clear picture of the problems facing the pharma industry. He even paints a picture of what he imagines will happen. But, in my opinion, he provides little guidance on how to “do more with less and still be innovative.”
Mr. Witty suggests: “A critical dimension to determine success for the future will be getting R&D right…I foresee more innovative partnerships emerging in R&D. Pharmaceutical companies are increasingly partnering with smaller specialist firms and academia.”
Still not very clear. How do you break old habits? The natural tendency is to continue to work established relationships rather than risk building new relationships. Even when partnering, the due diligence process usually relies on “old habits.”
Let me explain. Suppose business development has found a promising start-up company. What happens next? The due diligence. Who do you ask to help evaluate the science? You turn to trusted advisers (external experts, key opinion leaders, thought leaders) to help evaluate. Sounds very simple, but it’s not. The advisers will all be globally recognized experts in their field. But you might be surprised if I told you they often suffer from group think. Ask the group their opinion and you’ll get the same answer.
After studying over 50 different diseases, Lnx Pharma finds scientific discovery has the same structure as big pharma. There are both “central” and “fringe” experts. The central groups tend to pursue the same research funding; the same research topics, and study the same metabolic/ disease pathways.
In short, Big Pharma and scientific research both suffer from the same problem: resistance to change.
But how do you overcome this resistance to change? One solid method is to engage people who embrace change themselves. Ask the nay-sayer. Ask the fringe expert. Get many opinions. Make sure your advisors are not all the same, in terms of backgrounds and opinions and geographies.
Having a robust method for understanding who is part of the “group think” and who is not, can ultimately help drive not just change but true innovation and new ways of doing more with less.
- GSK’s Witty calls for an R&D renaissance (fiercebiotech.com)
- A Witty Response to Pharma’s R&D Dilemma (fool.com)
- Where Do New Drugs Come From? U.S. Biotechs Lead the Way (dailyfinance.com)