Can Eli Lilly get its R&D act together?

Eli Lilly's recent late-stage pratfall in Alzheimer's set the stage for a blistering Fortune piece dissecting the yawning gap between the Big Pharma's R&D game plan and its woeful track record. Just as some of its biggest competitors are absorbing pipelines stuffed with potential new products, Lilly has avoided any big merger deals. And analysts question whether CEO John Lechleiter (photo) has pointed the company down a blind alley.

Its one big R&D success of the past five years, Effient, has limped along with less than stellar sales, a track record that won't be helped by new data on potential safety issues. And of course its big blockbusters are running out of time, with patents set to expire.

Lechleiter's development strategy depends a lot on its Development Center of Excellence, writes Fortune's Shelley DuBois, which Lechleiter insists will deliver 10 promising late-stage programs by the time Zyprexa gets hit with generic competition.

It is easy to take potshots at Lilly. But R&D does take time. And Lilly has been innovative in squeezing development timelines, compressing research on dosages and efficacy with an eye to swiftly eliminating unpromising approaches. Lilly has also shaken up its R&D structure. That all takes plenty of time to pay off. But unless the pharma company manages to deliver good R&D news soon, patience will wear very, very thin.

- here's the article from Fortune