Today Derek Lowe, In the Pipeline, weighed in with more commentary on Bruce Booth's article that I wrote about on Monday with regard to changes needed to Big Pharma R&D structure/programs. Lowe seems to agree with many of Booth's concepts -- i.e. reduce bureacracy and get "some outside perspective" back inside the company through structural changes like 1) breaking your R&D (behemoth) core into smaller groups of biotechs with own budgets, 2) get marketing out of way in defining the science that should be pursued, and 3) overhaul BODs and SABs to provid emore science background with the former and greater connection with the outside world with the latter.
Lowe doubts this will occur however as this implies Senior VPs of Whatever Departments won't want to cede centralized power, and reduce their influence on Senior Management. Also, what would you do with all those committees and meeting time that they consume approving everything?
The second issue mentioned by Booth, and endorsed by Lowe, is that we taught big pharm a public company investors to expect very very very regular financial performance with no deviations. Tha's tougher to achieve when you actually pursue at least some high-risk projects to service unmet medical need. At least some projects will fail, and that might cause short-term hiccups in the financials. But if you pursue only vanilla, me-too, incremental benefit projects, yeah you can earn some return. But it is increasingly a boring one with little upside, and is in fact diminishing as the world is catching on that me-too products with little benefit over existing products is barely worth approving, let alone allowing companies to charge a premium for these treatments.
Booth's ideas are still well worth looking at and discussing. The premise behind them seem sound -- it's trying to treat the right symptoms and disease. All the prescriptions may not be exactly correct but one can certainly look to hone and refine these new potential treatments for the unmet need of curing Big Pharma R&D ills.
Posted by Bruce Lehr Aug 7th 2013.