Glaxo chief declares R&D upheaval a success

Looking back to when he got the top job at GlaxoSmithKline a little more than a year ago, Andrew Witty says that morale was terrible in the pharma giant's troubled, unproductive R&D department. High turnover left staffers angry as GSK recalibrated its approach to drug discovery and development. But it's all just fine now, says the CEO.

"Many of the people we had in the discovery organization left in the period of change, either through their own volition or because they were not up to operating in the kind of way I have described," Witty told a conference late last week. "Today, a year or so later, I'm shocked at how fast this has bedded down."

Curiously, Witty describes the improvement in R&D in numerical terms. There are more molecules being advanced against more diseases at GSK than ever before. But in the next breathe he's critical of the "industrial" approach that relied heavily on the mass use of genomics, proteomics and combinatorial chemistry to deliver more programs for research.

"These were all supposed to transform productivity yet none of them did. It turns out, in my view, that research is much more of an art than a science," Witty told the crowd. And research teams now are operating more laterally--all part of the radical shift in R&D.

Now all we need is the data to suggest whether this new, lateral approach is really better than the old one.

- read the report from Reuters

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