Plexxikon's Hirth offers a "small" solution to Big Pharma's R&D woes

Over the years Peter Hirth has gradually perfected his smaller-is-better approach to developing new drugs. As president of Sugen he played a big role in creating Sutent before selling the company. And this year he did it again, selling his 11-year-old biotech Plexxikon to Daiichi Sankyo for $905 million as its lead cancer drug, vemurafenib for melanoma, neared an approval.

Today Forbes' Matthew Herper profiles Hirth's approach to drug development, tracking the creation of Plexxikon and a lean-and-mean business strategy that allowed the biotech entrepreneur to limit his venture cash needs to a modest $67 million. When he sold Plexxikon, the company returned 14 times that amount to its owners.

Now 60, Hirth offered Forbes a model for Big Pharma should follow on the R&D side: Create smaller research units limited to 40 or 50 investigators, keep budgets tight and offer them royalties on the products they create.

"It doesn't take an army; it takes the right people," Hirth tells Herper. "And that can be a very small group."

- here's the article from Forbes

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