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I am a Director of Research and Devopment for a leading supplier to biopharmaceutical producers. The views expressed are mine. I do not speak for any company or corporation.
I saw this today in Pharmalot. Apparently, J&J, after a seeming unending stream of gaffes, manufacuring problems and ethical slip ups, is asking its employees do some "soul searching" and examine the 70+ year old corporate credo.
The health care giant is asking employees to take time to "reflect, reaffirm, question, challenge and share" their thoughts credo and then take a survey for the purpose of “identifying opportunities for improvement and action.”
Wow! Who'd thunk? It's like all the physician's in the world sitting down to "think about the Hippocratic Oath". When I was in business school in the late 80's, J&J was the poster child of ethical behaviour. In the wake of the Tylenol tragedy (if you are old enough to recall), its management team was held in complete esteem for its safety first, profits second (or third) approach to pulling products off the shelf to protect consumers. It was THE CASE study used in business ethics classes.
Would you ever think you'd see a blog post reflecting the activities that are going on in J&J now? Neither would I.
I guess that gives away the punch line. Regardless, here's an interesting post on the topic from Stewart Lyman in this morning's Xconomy. In it, he notes that the average tenure for a top R&D exec in pharma is only 7 years. Think about that when comparind the average length of time it takes to get a drug on the market -- usually reported in 10-15 year range. It doesn't take a math major to figure out that the your average R&D head won't actually be around for new product he/she (mostly hes of course) starts in development.
The post questions -- how do you really say who did the best job in getting a drug to market? The R&D guy who started the project or the one who was in residence when it was approved to market? Don't know. Not easy to figure out. Further, given that length of time, the main way an R&D head can make an impact now is to acquire drugs that can be launched on his (or her) watch.
Brings us back to the punchline. As R&D head, you are only as good as your company's revenue and stock performance --- regardless if you caused it or not. Just be in the chair at the right time. Sounds fanciful huh?
Maybe it makes sense if you buy into the premise of this Forbes article about CEO's and their lack of [people] management skills. In a recent survey, 160 CEOs and directors were polled with regard to CEO strengths and weaknesses. It turns out that directors rank their CEOs as poor people managers. It further indicates that the MOST important thing that CEOs were rated on by boards was their company's "accounting, operating or stock performance." Not their ability to mentor, develop people, listen, resolve conflict, delegate ,etc.
It was how well the company performed on the bottom line. Given that CEOs are only in their jobs about 8.4 years (and pharma even less), it's likely you have the same phenomenon going for you at the CEO level as you do for head of R&D. The secret is being in the right place at the right time.
Japanese Pharma companies have traditionally not participated in the support of product development for the emerging world. They've typically chosen to allocate R&D funds to their own market and faster growing Western economies. Apparently this is about to change.
Five Big Pharma's in Japan, along with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, are pledging to spend $100 M over the next 5 years to make a dent versus HIV, malaria, TB and other tropical diseases. The Japanese government will kick in as well. The spending will come in the form of research grants and will also provide access to company chemical libraries. See Fierce Biotech.