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A few years ago, Big Pharma R&D hit the wall. Too often multibillion-dollar budgets bought bloated, wildly unproductive research silos that oversaw a dramatic, long-term drop in new drug approvals just as the first big patent cliff loomed. 

Faced with some serious questions about the survival of the giant species and their pipelines, big changes were required. There was a significant round of downsizing in some of the major players--though certainly not all--as everyone looked to beef up their work on biologics in search of more powerful therapies which could earn a long run in the market free of generic competition. And there was a much sharper focus on specific drug assets and the development timelines they faced as payers became much, much more demanding.

But even as new drug approvals are rising, the emphasis on improving efficiency in clinical research seems even more important now than ever before. And I'll be sitting down with four top R&D executives from some of the biggest pharma operations around the globe next month to see where we go from here.

My executive breakfast at the annual BIO conference in Chicago on April 23rd will feature Briggs Morrison, EVP, Global Medicines Development, AstraZeneca ($AZN); Martin Fitchet, chief operating officer and heart disease expert for the global Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) Pharmaceutical Research & Development organization; José-Carlos Gutiérrez-Ramos, SVP, head of BioTherapeutics R&D, Pfizer ($PFE); and Perry Nisen, SVP of Science and Innovation, GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK). 

We'll be discussing the revolution in clinical drug research and how that affects everyone in the biopharma industry, from the biotech companies they may buy or partner with to the legion of investigators responsible for advancing the next generation of drugs. As always, it's a great opportunity to mingle with hundreds of your peers as well as ask us your own questions.  

I hope to see you there. And if you sign up today, you can still get the early-bird special. The price goes up tomorrow. You can register here.

On another note, the stock exchange is taking a holiday tomorrow and so will we. We'll be back on Monday, but check out the website if you want to see if something big breaks. -- John Carroll, Editor-in-Chief, FierceBiotech. Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn.