Big Pharma tries to think like a biotech while reengineering R&D

Big Pharma companies know all too well that they have a big development problem. As Eli Lilly CEO John Lechleiter has said: "We're taking too long, spending too much and producing far too little. Re-powering pharmaceutical innovation is an urgent need."

As a new feature in the Financial Times notes, the dilemma has led some of the world's biggest drug companies to do everything they can to act like a biotech company. That means trying to create an incentives-based, science-based, small company environment. It's also caused a company like Merck to start looking outside its own research ops for new and better ideas. And the writer notes without any intended irony that the new approach helped inspire Merck's acquisition of Schering-Plough, which made it a much larger company.

The biggest trend in recent months, declares the FT, is the shift to remove the 'taboo' of R&D cutbacks, a change that has helped Pfizer reduce R&D costs so it can pursue more partnerships. But Nils Behnke, a partner with Bain, says the new attitude is coming too late for some. "There's a lot of talk about the patent cliff. The problem could maybe have been solved 10 years ago. But now there is going to be a gap."

The FT also reviews new acquisition strategies as some pharmas branch into new drug niches and drop out of unproductive areas.

- here's the article from the Financial Times