Back last year we were talking here about GlaxoSmithKline's R&D makeover. The company had reorganized into "DPU"s (Discovery Performance Units), each of them operating under much more of a "succeed or you're out" atmosphere. Now Bloomberg has a look at how that's going:
Glaxo is conducting one of the industry’s boldest experiments, changing the way it looks for new medicines to emulate biotech companies and spur innovation. The U.K.’s largest drugmaker has broken up research into competitive teams and put scientists back at the center of the process. But freedom carries a price: researchers who don’t adapt must go.
Talent was “buried in the ocean” under the old system, says Moncef Slaoui, Glaxo’s head of research and development and one of the architects of the overhaul. Scientists now “live or die with their project.”
This month, London-based Glaxo completed the first appraisal of its new model. The company is now deciding which teams deserve more funding and which ones don’t. The conclusions will probably be made public in February when Glaxo reports full-year earnings. . .
That will be worth a close look when it happens, for sure. The article goes on to a standard feature of such pieces - what, indeed, would a re-org be like without some bad words for the old system?
(Dave) Allen says he remembers discussions dating as far back as the early 2000s with former Glaxo R&D head Tachi Yamada and Slaoui, who succeeded him in 2006, on the importance of scientists in the drug-discovery process.
The old Glaxo “was arrogant,” says Robin Carr, who heads a DPU looking at ways to treat lung damage. “It had the biggest machine and the biggest hammer and it (thought it) could just grind out success.”
That's funny - I remember the "old" Glaxo advertising itself as being full of nimble, empowered Centers of Excellence for Drug Discovery (as they were called), which supposedly had a free hand to do whatever it took to bring drugs to market. There were several re-re-orgs along the way, and it appears that the current DPUs are supposed to be the smaller units that were inside a lot of the CEDDs.
It's basically too early to tell if this new model is helping - I note that the article mentions that some investors were impressed when the company's CEO, Andrew Witty, talked during at a recent conference call about the number of compounds that GSK has in development. Given the timelines involved, that can't have much to do with the new structure. But eventually its effects should be felt, one way or another, and it looks like February will be the next look under the hood. . .