Big Pharma embraces "open innovation" trend to fix a broken R&D model

Just about every big pharma or biotech company that has earned an unwelcome reputation for building huge and unproductive R&D empires is taking a page from the household products behemoth Procter & Gamble and joining the shift to "open innovation." A new article in Mass High Tech explores how that trend is affecting several big research organizations in the Boston area, home to some of the best minds in drug development.

Pfizer's Global Centers for Therapeutic Innovation in Cambridge has been setting up a farm system, relying on teams matching investigators from the pharma giant and academia to advance important new therapies through the pipeline. The company is starting out with a collaboration at the University of California, San Francisco and plans to expand that around the globe. AstraZeneca has already taken an axe to its R&D ops, preferring to recruit new leaders for research and often going outside the company to find fresh talent, says John Hennessy, executive director, AstraZeneca R&D Boston. Now it plans to get up to 40 percent of its new programs from outside the walls of its R&D silos. Even Biogen Idec is signaling its interest in finding new programs outside the company.

"In parts of our R&D we saw radical ideas squashed too quickly," Hennessy recently told a conference. "We are looking at a patent cliff as a company and we have to have a strong pipeline over time."

For MIT professor Michael Cima, who's founded multiple biotechs and did a stint as a consultant for Johnson & Johnson, big companies are paying for their past R&D sins. "I saw hundreds of good ideas squashed at Johnson & Johnson in those five years," he told Mass High Tech. "They would think of ways how not to make it happen."

- here's the article from Mass High Tech

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