New R&D culture at GSK forces a challenging showdown

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Researchers at GlaxoSmithKline face the dragon's den when it comes to gaining a financial commitment for their projects. Referring to a popular British television show, The Times profiles GSK's new development culture, in which small teams compete for R&D funds much the same way smaller biotechs seek out venture funds.

These are nerve-wracking times for GSK's drug performance units, or DPUs. Created in 2008, they fought for three year's of funding. Now they are back at the beginning to see if their work can qualify for three more years of support.

"The questions were very insightful and very strategic--exactly the ones I would have asked," one investigator who had been grilled told The Times.

Of course, outright criticism of the process may have been hard to come by, given the fact that they were fighting for management's support. But the new, tougher development culture at GSK reflects a broad feeling in the industry that the R&D bureaucracy was consuming billions of dollars more even as new drug approvals dropped to a paltry level. But GSK has not yet stated whether their new approach is working.

"Three years is long enough to know whether we are failing but too short to know whether we are succeeding," said Moncef Slaoui, chairman of research and development, who helps decide which projects live or die. "I don't think this has failed; we are moving in the right direction. How successful we are, we'll see. I'm satisfied up to now. I would like to see another (funding) round in three years--that's the timeline it takes."

- see the Times article

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