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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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June 8, 2010

Anyone from GSK Interested?

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Posted by Derek

A reporter from a major newspaper has contacted me while working on a story about GlaxoSmithKline's new R&D structure. They've noticed a lot of comments to posts here, and wonder if anyone would like to provide their opinions as to how things are going. If anyone's interested, drop me an e-mail, and I'll provide contact information. At that point, I'll drop out of the process entirely.

Comments (12) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Press Coverage


1. Evorich on June 8, 2010 10:09 AM writes...

I can't answer directly, because I'm not from GSK, but I can say, FWIW (in the context of everyone's doom & gloom about the industry), that we've employed ~10 ex-GSK people in the last month-or-so, and we'll likely be getting a few more in the near future. Good people.

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2. exGSK on June 9, 2010 5:00 PM writes...

GSK just happens to be the most hilarious clown in the corporate circus around R&D productivity at the moment. It appears that everyone is convinced that the road to success is to cut internal efforts and buy up all the great stuff available from biotech. Take a look at the June 7 C&E News - "It's already working" - i.e.- GSK is already lying about how the cost cutting has miraculously increased R&D productivity and the DPU's are just doing swell. Well, a child of three might buy this, but if you know the real cycle time to late stage clinical trials, nothing done in the last 5 years (other than buying a good Phase II asset - which they haven't) has anything to do with a change in the number of late stage programs. Every big pharma R&D organization spends more time re-organizing and re-writing history these days than actually doing R&D - oddly enough, this has not solved the productivity problem. Andrew Witty (GSK CEO) actually claimed that no new NCEs were discovered at GSK from 1998 through 2007 ( - well as one of the inventors of Avodart (FDA approved in 2001, >$500M sales), I can question his integrity or knowledge, but not his ability to spin the facts to paint his brave new world as 'already working'. GSK is a company where lies are rewarded and anyone who has the balls to speak the truth better have an exit plan. The truth: there is not a pot of gold hidden behind the org chart - no matter how you arrange it, drug discovery remains difficult and risky and requires courage and a belief in data as a basis for decision-making. How the global drug discovery effort is going to benefit from fewer scientists employed in this endeavor escapes me. Big pharma is just collectively opting out of discovery (with some exceptions) and decided that biotech purchases (is biotech really more productive?: Pisano, G.P. (2006). Can Science Be a Business? Lessons from Biotech. Harvard Business Review 84, 114-125) and outsourcing will replace internal expertise. Well, if their business plans all look like GSK's - i.e. - "Everyone is smarter than we are" (c.f. Sirtris), then I am thankful to be part of the 'everyone' and no longer there. I can't imagine anything more futile than discussing GSK's latest magic structure with a reporter. Venting done - back to endeavoring to discover new medicines.

PS - Derek - the latest C&E should be read with your blog responses of a few weeks ago in mind. Where is the analysis? Every company spews the same BS they feed to the street and C&E prints it with no historical (hysterical?) context - what happened to the last 8 rounds of magic reorganizations?

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3. CurrentGSK on June 9, 2010 10:50 PM writes...

I look forward to reading the article but I already know what it will say. GSK needs to cut costs and GSK management is convinced that thier internal scientists fail to make the same exciting/big discoveries that less well funded biotechs make. Thats a bad mix for internal GSK scientists and moral is low. GSK scientists want steady jobs, steady raises, steady promotions...not constant layoffs and insinuations of worthlessness.

GSK management might be right or they might be wrong, but regardless they are going to cut, shake, and bake. Can GSK management change the culture to one of invention and new discoveries instead of the percieved industrial scale assembly line plodding? If they allow thier scientists to pursue long term risky projects, then maybe. If they just crack the whip harder to get more chemical widgets made in a shorter amount of time, then no one will ever discover anything very novel.

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4. Milhouse on June 10, 2010 8:37 AM writes...

I keep hearing about a bad decision with GSK and Sirtris so I am finally going to post to this thing. It was not a bad decision. One can only judge the purchase in light of FULL knowledge of what NCE's Sirtris had which would augment and or threaten GSK's portfolio at the purchase time. Focus on both elements at the same time and you will understand what they teach us in business school.

Innovation and research really work and sometimes so efficiently that we screw up and come up with a dangerously good compound (not resveratrol or micronized resveratrol or anything else published or patented by Sirtris). What can an "ideal" compound (incredible TI) do to a 3.4 billion/yr inferior compound ? How do you protect yourself from fruitful external R&D nowadays?

There is a business side to this game and for all of you out there that have a mortgage or a car loan...please don't complain about this facet of the industry because you are already part of it.

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5. processchemist on June 10, 2010 9:16 AM writes...

"Focus on both elements at the same time and you will understand what they teach us in business school. "

Focus on the first Sirtris coumpound to enter clinical trials and you will understand what they DON'T teach you in business school- how to discriminate between a good drug candidate and a bogus one.

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6. Hap on June 10, 2010 9:19 AM writes...

Isn't that what "due diligence" is for? (Do they have anything we can use, or which could interfere with our business? Do they have the ability to prevent us from developing compounds?) Because people did that, and found that the answer to those questions was "No", and yet were overruled. If your ability to do diligence is bad enough that you can't trust your diligence, you're screwed, and if it the diligence is good but you don't care what it says, you're also screwed. Otherwise, you have to buy any company that has a patent which might interfere with your business. You'd be better off coating yourself in bee alarm pheromones and running through an apiary - at least it'd be quicker.

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7. Milhouse on June 10, 2010 10:27 AM writes...

Focus on the first Sirtris coumpound to enter clinical trials and you will understand what they DON'T teach you in business school- how to discriminate between a good drug candidate and a bogus one.

Agreed. See "(not resveratrol or micronized resveratrol or anything else published or patented by Sirtris)". Don't assume however that all NCE's tested are known to the outside world. I believe we have forgotten about the power of "trade secrets"; never patented, never published but just as real and alive.

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8. not naive on June 10, 2010 12:42 PM writes...

Come now, Derek. There is never any guarantee of anonymity. Why are you tying to pick on the poor folks trying to keep their jobs at GSK?

The company has a policy that any outside requests for information should be referred to the corporate communication group. Doing otherwise puts one at risk for immediate dismissal under corporate policy. Who still on the inside would be willing to go on record to an outsider for an interview? Of course, that is the basic problem in trying to achieve true transparency, isn't it? Monkey see, monkey do.

One thing is for certain, the DPU structure will continually be declared successful by GSK upper management during the next two years. Even when DPUs begin to fade and disappear as the initial guaranteed (reminder to the Neuroscience groups in the UK and Italy) three year budget cycle comes to end, the model will be a great advance, substantive step forward for R&D. And then, the next best and greatest tweaks will be made for yet more continual improvement. Back & forth, from one model to another. Sounds a lot like the operations being played out daily by BP. Lots of promises of openness and transparency. Oh yeah, both are incorporated in the UK! Coincidence that.

Yet, it's generally not the structure that makes or breaks this type of R&D organization, it's the people who must make it work, make the pieces fit together in trying to achieve new drugs in the end. Continual changes simply are disruptive of progress and progression, getting in the way as the people who really want to achieve something have to find out how to get things done in the next new and improved corporate R&D world-order. When will people heading GSK learn this basic of lessons?

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9. Hap on June 10, 2010 12:51 PM writes...

Do trade secrets guard against someone figuring them out, though? You can't knowingly reveal a trade secret, but if you don't know it, can you reverse engineer around it? Because if that were the case, GSK didn't need Sirtris at all. (And if you try to get patent protection for something, and didn't disclose the best method, but protected it as a trade secret, wouldn't that negate the patent?)

In addition, trying to buy everyone who may have a trade secret in your area of business is even sketchier than buying people who have patents - at least with patents, you have a written document with which you might be able to evaluate a company's capabilities, while with a trade secret, all you have is their word until they produce a product, if ever.

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10. StarkChoice on June 15, 2010 4:49 AM writes...

I think the "ex" in "exGSK" above explains the embittered tone above. Andrew, Moncef, and Patrick appreciate that change is not only difficult but also necessary. They have issued a clarion call to all staff to buy in to a new strategic vision of drug discovery. From my own perspective in IT, I have seen how this has energized the organization. We are now doing a lot more with a lot less and teams are really focused on delivering the pipeline. Change has not come easy to many but for those who have persevered, the benefits are beginning to materialize. Drug discovery is a marathon not a sprint and only those fully committed to success will stay the course!

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11. StillLaughing on June 15, 2010 5:33 AM writes...

Thank you, StarkChoice, for such insight. I wonder if you will hold true to this viewpoint when you are 'deselected' or 'outsourced' from your position in IT (or HR - your use of such agonizing and embarrassing management-speak may be giving you away here).

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12. Vuvuzela on June 16, 2010 2:15 AM writes...

Agreed, StillLaughing. People outside the GSK bubble don't believe that such verbiage as spouted by StarkChoice is routine there. My manager used to like to cheer us all up with the platitude that "change is inevitable". Classic poetic justice prevailed though when that same manager became yet another victim of "inevitable change".

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