Lilly chief vows to create lean, mean drug-making machine

Even as Merck and Pfizer and other Big Pharma companies concentrate on big acquisitions and more external collaborations as a way of getting better at drug development, Eli Lilly CEO John Lechleiter has focused on pushing the company's R&D arm to work faster and smarter.

Every major challenge in Eli Lilly's history, the CEO tells Bloomberg, has been met with "new, innovative products." The way Lechleiter tells it, Lilly has created an R&D machine that works like an auto assembly plant. Everyone's movements are carefully orchestrated and aimed at producing the final product. And it's all designed to start rolling out two new products a year - starting in 2013.

Of course, Bloomberg adds, Lilly has had some problems getting the assembly line to perform. Last summer, two high-profile programs failed, and Effient, its new blood thinner, managed to pull in only $27 million last year while rival Plavix garnered $6 billion. Investors have also been hard to win over. Lilly's stock performance has been the worst in the industry.

"There's always the risk--will these molecules make it or not?" Lechleiter says of the company's 64-drug pipeline. "But my response and, I believe, Lilly's has to be, ‘Where do we find and how do we bring forth new innovation as quickly and cost-effectively as possible?' That's what we're working on."

- here's the article from Bloomberg