More details on Merck's announced restructuring of its R&D group emerged today in a Fierce Biotech piece quoting a WSJ article. In it, Merck revealed, like J&J, it will be setting up innovation hubs in Boston, San Francisco and Shanghai. This is a paradigm being adopted by other companies too like Sanofi and GSK. The idea behind hubs is not only to concentrate R&D work in hotbeds of innovation but to form more external links with those innovators in the market, i.e. be less navel gazing in R&D approach.
Merck appears to also be following suit with companies like Pfizer or AbbVie to spin-off certain divisions or assets -- including the sale of individual research programs to outside bidders. In Merck's case, they've indicated a desire to sell programs for glaucoma, antipsychotics, and male fertility drugs. Merck will also bring in "new" talent into R&D management from competitors. It should be noted Merck's current R&D head recently came over from Amgen and some of his friends appear headed the same way.
Becoming more externally focused, is likely a good idea for any business anywhere -- afterall customers are OUTSIDE the building. But there is a danger when everyone adopts the "same strategy". Not everyone can lead the market with the same plan. There is a fine line between imitation being the ultimate form of flattery and just being a "me-too."
Posted by Bruce Lehr Jan 2nd 2014.