Corante

About this Author
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: derekb.lowe@gmail.com Twitter: Dereklowe

Chemistry and Drug Data: Drugbank
Emolecules
ChemSpider
Chempedia Lab
Synthetic Pages
Organic Chemistry Portal
PubChem
Not Voodoo
DailyMed
Druglib
Clinicaltrials.gov

Chemistry and Pharma Blogs:
Org Prep Daily
The Haystack
Kilomentor
A New Merck, Reviewed
Liberal Arts Chemistry
Electron Pusher
All Things Metathesis
C&E News Blogs
Chemiotics II
Chemical Space
Noel O'Blog
In Vivo Blog
Terra Sigilatta
BBSRC/Douglas Kell
ChemBark
Realizations in Biostatistics
Chemjobber
Pharmalot
ChemSpider Blog
Pharmagossip
Med-Chemist
Organic Chem - Education & Industry
Pharma Strategy Blog
No Name No Slogan
Practical Fragments
SimBioSys
The Curious Wavefunction
Natural Product Man
Fragment Literature
Chemistry World Blog
Synthetic Nature
Chemistry Blog
Synthesizing Ideas
Business|Bytes|Genes|Molecules
Eye on FDA
Chemical Forums
Depth-First
Symyx Blog
Sceptical Chymist
Lamentations on Chemistry
Computational Organic Chemistry
Mining Drugs
Henry Rzepa


Science Blogs and News:
Bad Science
The Loom
Uncertain Principles
Fierce Biotech
Blogs for Industry
Omics! Omics!
Young Female Scientist
Notional Slurry
Nobel Intent
SciTech Daily
Science Blog
FuturePundit
Aetiology
Gene Expression (I)
Gene Expression (II)
Sciencebase
Pharyngula
Adventures in Ethics and Science
Transterrestrial Musings
Slashdot Science
Cosmic Variance
Biology News Net


Medical Blogs
DB's Medical Rants
Science-Based Medicine
GruntDoc
Respectful Insolence
Diabetes Mine


Economics and Business
Marginal Revolution
The Volokh Conspiracy
Knowledge Problem


Politics / Current Events
Virginia Postrel
Instapundit
Belmont Club
Mickey Kaus


Belles Lettres
Uncouth Reflections
Arts and Letters Daily
In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

In the Pipeline

« Worst Biotech CEO of 2011? | Main | Not Just FDA-Bashing? »

December 2, 2011

Acronym-Fest: GSK and Its DPUs

Email This Entry

Posted by Derek

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. . .

Comments (45) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business and Markets


COMMENTS

1. bbooooooya on December 2, 2011 9:25 AM writes...

The DPU stuff makes for good sound bites, and no doubt was arrived at with expensive consultation from the half wits at McKinsey or BCG. Reality will be that pitting groups in the same company against each other obviates the advantages that bigger companies are supposed to offer. I don't think this is anything new though, and I recall buddies from NVS talking about a similar approach a decade ago.

I found this---"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"---interesting. Maybe it's time to reinvent the combi chem hubris of the late 90s? After all, if making 100 compounds is good then making a million MUST be better.....I can say for certain that there are a bunch of institutional analysts waiting to get bamboozled by this again.

Permalink to Comment

2. Open2Innovation on December 2, 2011 9:37 AM writes...

Derek, that article you've pointed to gives a nice flavor of how things are currently playing out at GSK but getting to this point has been hard work for all involved and
is a testament to the resilience of GSK's scientists and the vision of its managers. Other companies are not just trying to poach GSK scientists but are also copying
the DPU model wholesale. But as the old adage says: "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery". Creating and managing top-class DPUs is no trivial matter and although it may be slightly invidious to select any one individual for special mention, Kevin Lee has set a very high standard for others to emulate. Another aspect that the Bloomberg report ignored is the emphasis
on Open Innovation and how much this now figures in the GSK vision. Once the science park at Stevenage comes on line Q1 2012, we should see some really productive developments
in this space. I really do not think things have looked so rosy at GSK since it was formed by the GW-SB merger. These DPUs have greatly contributed to this scenario and the interaction of the DPUs with the Science Park promises to create a uniquely productive ecosystem for drug development. As we see, the share price is nudging up nicely so we can be cautiously optimistic about future prospects to the extent that when people review this era in retrospect, I think Patrick and Moncef will garner a lot of
credit for their foresight and leadership.

Permalink to Comment

3. petros on December 2, 2011 9:45 AM writes...

I understand the DPU reviews to be bureaucratic time consuming exercises. At least for the senior members in the DPUs.

Permalink to Comment

4. exGlaxoid on December 2, 2011 9:46 AM writes...

Having worked at Glaxo et al for almost 20 years, I can say that the best times for research were clearly the 1985-2000 period. During that time, a small number of researchers discovered nearly one new significant drug per year. The scientists were allowed a reasonable time to do their work. Once Zantac went off patent in the mid 90's, the push for more "return on investment" started and that began the downfall.

The merger with Boroughs Wellcome in 1996 was actually good for research, as some of the the BW people had great experience and many good ideas that were under-resourced. So that merger seemed to produce (at least in the US) an efficient research program for a few years. But with more acronyms came more bureaucracy and top down management, which started the downhill slide, with CEDDs and people in commercial, finance, and marketing trying to all tell research how to work.

The merger with SKB was the downfall of GW. The SKB management had lots of large, unproven ideas about research-it should be like a factory-it had to all be in one location per disease-it had to be six sigma-it had to be constantly reshuffled. Those ideas lead to the spending of huge sums of money on big projects which were poorly thought out, the siloing of researchers into competing groups, the switch of research heads from scientics and doctors to MBAs and CPAs who looked only at money and marketing gimmicks.

During that time (2001-2010) of the GSK shift to the SKB way, the number of truely novel and useful compounds discovered dropped to nearly zero. The people responsible that discovered the drugs in the earlier period were almost all laid off, as they were "too old" or "not willing to work in the new paradigm" apparently, including many award winning scientists and some scientists who had discovered marketed drugs. They also cancelled many programs that "lacked market" like Cialis, anesthesia drugs, and dermatology.

They also started looking to China, India, and biotechs for easy solutions, which resulted in bad compounds, large arrays of crap, resveratrol, fish oil, and other snake oils. They were just lucky that Merck got the RNAi's before GSK could fall for that one also. So they spend billions on magic beans rather than just doing the good research to discover real drugs.

So GSK has not had empowered scientists since the work "empowered" was first spoken around 2001. I know many people still there, and almost none of them has had a say in research for years. They are reorg'd into new areas constantly, given unrealistic goals, and entire program areas are cancelled just as they are about to finally produce results. The lack of focus and scientific knowledge/rigor in upper management has destroyed a once great company.

Permalink to Comment

5. anon on December 2, 2011 9:48 AM writes...

"Open2Innovation on December 2, 2011 9:37 AM writes..."

What position do you hold at GSK?

Permalink to Comment

6. Calvin on December 2, 2011 10:02 AM writes...

Why we have the GSK troll again. Different name but as a guess it may be Kevin Lee in disguise.
Open2innovation. Got any actual tenants in that science park? I hear that's a big fat no. Consultants don't count

Permalink to Comment

7. quintus on December 2, 2011 10:33 AM writes...

Novartis did something like this in development, where they formed units which contained every ability to be able to develop a compound, chemists, pharmacists, formulation analysis's, etc.
In my opinion it just creates unhealthy competition for projects and funding not to mention recruiting.
The good old days of popping along to a colleague to discuss a problem are gone.

Permalink to Comment

8. Hap on December 2, 2011 10:38 AM writes...

If you don't listen to the advice of the people you hired and who actually have expertise in what you're doing (e.g., the purchase of Sirtris), and they're the ones who are supposed to come up with new drugs, why do you think your business is going to turn out well?

Also, a plan that makes individual units responsible for their own fates but who don't profit if they succeed and who can't really do much to affect their fates (as opposed to small pharma, the object of imitation) seems like a death march to layoffs and management bonuses.

Since we know lots of things don't work (don't discover drugs cheaply enough nor make enough money to sustain the process), you have to try something to make drug discovery better, but this seems like a good example of "irrational exuberance".

Permalink to Comment

9. HelicalZz on December 2, 2011 11:05 AM writes...

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. . .

And the reality is, this won't all be 'science' based. Much will be market focused. First and foremost will be an assessment of how much money can be made by a therapeutic affective for a particular indication. Success and failures, competitive landscape changes, willingness to reimburse, etc. etc. etc. all come into play.

How promising the R&D looks (binding constants, specificity, pre-tox profiles, and again etc. etc. etc.) are only a small piece of the decision. Ineffective R&D can kill a program, but good R&D can't save one that has since become less promising than originally believed. Sorry, but that is the nature of the industry, and sadly under appreciated in the labs.

Zz

Permalink to Comment

10. johnnyboy on December 2, 2011 11:08 AM writes...

I think it speaks loads about GSK's priorities that they have a PR shill paid just to scour internet blogs, ready to pounce and deliver the company gospel every time he sees something posted about GSK. The name changes every time (it's Open2Innovation now - how clever), but the blind rhetoric is always the same.

Permalink to Comment

11. Ed on December 2, 2011 11:12 AM writes...

#10 - it's also amusing that is contains obvious copy and paste formatting errors - how many times has this corporate PR fluff been posted elsewhere?

Permalink to Comment

12. anon on December 2, 2011 11:23 AM writes...

When you were young and your heart was an open book,
You used to say, "Live and let live."
You know you did, you know did, you know did...

Permalink to Comment

13. Hap on December 2, 2011 11:27 AM writes...

9: No, I think people understand that you have to make money to pay them, and that means making decisions not just by what candidates you have and how good they are but how much money you can make with them. The first problem, though, is that the economics aren't entirely predictable - Zantac and Lipitor and Exubera are three big examples of how easy it is to misjudge the economics of your drugs. Subordinating discovery to economics is likely to miss these kinds of drugs, and since those drugs are what is keeping drug discovery afloat, that might be a problem.

Second, since only the people who seem to make the drugs are actually at risk, and since they don't seem to have much incentive, but only promise of pain or its lack, this seems like a method to distribute money to management while decreasing internal cooperating in finding drugs. How is that going to stockholders richer or customers less sick (or chemists more employable)?

Permalink to Comment

14. Also_an_exGlaxoid on December 2, 2011 11:29 AM writes...

exGlaxoid is spot on. I was also an "original" Glaxoid - went through the BW merger & the SKB mergers. After SK came along, innovation went down hill and never recovered. One of the big killers was the post merger method of deciding who stayed and who went. Most of the time it was a case of keeping the SK personnel over the GW ones if they all did the same type of work. By doing that, they gutted the research arm of GW and have never recovered. We used to say the new compay was spelled "GSK" but pronounced "SK" with a silent G.

Permalink to Comment

15. Also_an_exGlaxoid on December 2, 2011 11:30 AM writes...

exGlaxoid is spot on. I was also an "original" Glaxoid - went through the BW merger & the SKB mergers. After SK came along, innovation went down hill and never recovered. One of the big killers was the post merger method of deciding who stayed and who went. Most of the time it was a case of keeping the SK personnel over the GW ones if they all did the same type of work. By doing that, they gutted the research arm of GW and have never recovered. We used to say the new compay was spelled "GSK" but pronounced "SK" with a silent G.

Permalink to Comment

16. Nick K on December 2, 2011 11:50 AM writes...

Open2Innovation/Agilist: If you really do work for GSK, please consider the damage you are doing to the image of the company. People laugh at you openly, no one takes you seriously. GSK has enough problems as it is without a clown like you making things worse.

Permalink to Comment

17. anon on December 2, 2011 12:07 PM writes...

"Other companies are not just trying to poach GSK scientists"

Can you provide job posting details for these positions? Much appreciated.

Permalink to Comment

18. exRoche on December 2, 2011 12:12 PM writes...

Open2Innovatio- this just a rehash of Dennis Loh's exeriment at Roche during the 90's. look up Hammer and management silos every 'new' director has a new way to better faster cheaper

Permalink to Comment

19. Student on December 2, 2011 12:32 PM writes...

Its been...mentioned...that the publish or perish model in academia is a large factor in the irreproducabliity of their results. These DPUs sound like the exact same model. My guess is we will see more compounds reaching late stage trials as well as a higher percentage of them failing.

Permalink to Comment

20. Jim on December 2, 2011 12:59 PM writes...

The overall idea of competing for resources/budgets makes sense (whay pay for poor work?) but it's virtually impossible to implement. Anyone who has had to write year end reviews for a scientist knows this. If it's worthless on an individual level, how can it be implemented across DPUs? It seems to me that the only metric for a DPU is the number of compounds in development. What if a DPU kills three targets because they identified tox problems early on? They did a great job, but will never be rewarded for this. It will just end up pushing a lot of mediocre compounds into the development phase, costs will go up, and we still won't be bringing enough new drugs to market. Win-win.

Permalink to Comment

21. Jim on December 2, 2011 1:03 PM writes...

The overall idea of competing for resources/budgets makes sense (whay pay for poor work?) but it's virtually impossible to implement. Anyone who has had to write year end reviews for a scientist knows this. If it's worthless on an individual level, how can it be implemented across DPUs? It seems to me that the only metric for a DPU is the number of compounds in development. What if a DPU kills three targets because they identified tox problems early on? They did a great job, but will never be rewarded for this. It will just end up pushing a lot of mediocre compounds into the development phase, costs will go up, and we still won't be bringing enough new drugs to market. Win-win.

Permalink to Comment

22. ex-GW on December 2, 2011 1:31 PM writes...

Ex-Glaxoid is right. But not right enough.

The competition between CEDDS led to exaggeration of the good aspects of assets, and burying the bad problems. Senior CEDD personell distorted the truth to get their drugs into humans and obtain the all-important funding, bonus, and promotion. Tachi the toothpaste salesman essentially inverted the mantra "kill early, kill cheap" and turned it into "keep the zombies walking, let them eat all the brains they want - never kill them."

Permalink to Comment

23. johnnyboy on December 2, 2011 1:40 PM writes...

I think it speaks loads about GSK's priorities that they have a PR shill paid just to scour internet blogs, ready to pounce and deliver the company gospel every time he sees something posted about GSK. The name changes every time (it's Open2Innovation now - how clever), but the blind rhetoric is always the same.

Permalink to Comment

24. victory pilsner on December 2, 2011 2:32 PM writes...

The ex-g's are spot on - I'll agree as well. GW was good, GSK not so much. IMHO the core issue with the CEDD's and discovery research model was that it created artificial hand-offs. For example, DR had to satisfy bean counting requirements for a compound to advance to a CEDD. Handoff's are death as they allow for the artificial need to meet metrics (for survival) to trump proper science. Can't speak for the DPU's personally as I left GSK, but I can only imagine that DPU's do the same and maybe worse.

Permalink to Comment

25. Anonymous on December 2, 2011 2:36 PM writes...

It's not an acronym fest; it's a wankfest.

Permalink to Comment

26. exGlaxoid on December 2, 2011 2:59 PM writes...

HelicalZz on December 2, 2011 11:05 AM writes...

"And the reality is, this won't all be 'science' based. Much will be market focused. First and foremost will be an assessment of how much money can be made by a therapeutic affective for a particular indication. Success and failures, competitive landscape changes, willingness to reimburse, etc. etc. etc. all come into play."

That was my point on GSK's brilliant decision to divest Cialis, as well as some of their other non-science based decisions to buy Praecis and Sirtris, whose "science" has already been discredited within GSK by its own people, who could not replicate their work internally, long before GSK bought them.

GSK has had bean counters try to guess the market on a number of areas, almost all of them incorrect. Perhaps they should try to let the scientists find some good drugs and see what the market thinks of them. Sometimes markets change due to innovation. I guess Steve Jobs should have not designed the iPod since there was clearly no market for a portable music box when he invented it. If you don't put create good and novel products to put on the market, it is impossible to create a market for them.

Permalink to Comment

27. HelicalZz on December 2, 2011 3:30 PM writes...

exGlaxoid

Sure, plenty of market based decisions will be bad ones. At least there will be a rational behind them. But this isn't Apple, and innovation doesn't 'create markets' here, at least not in the same way (approach to disease treatment would be one). They enable sure (Advair?), but create, no.

But yes, scientist should indeed be more involved, and that should be by learning some finance and being able to make a business case. Good luck with getting 'find some good drugs and see what the market thinks of them' funded. I wouldn't give you a dime, nor should GSK.

Permalink to Comment

28. Hap on December 2, 2011 3:51 PM writes...

Funny, the "find some good drugs and see what the market thinks of them" model used to actually produce drugs (and profits). It seems to be a better idea than the "give me and my buddies money and we'll wave a dead chicken about until we have drugs" model they appear to be using now.

Care to guess which model will work out better in any term?

Permalink to Comment

29. Kirstin on December 2, 2011 5:33 PM writes...

"The old Glaxo 'was arrogant,' says Robin Carr. 'It had the biggest machine and the biggest hammer and it (thought it) could just grind out success.'"

Correction: GSK management thought this - the bench scientists shook their heads at the stupidity of it all and then paid the price of its failure. And as I recall, those managers trumpeted the failings of their predecessors as an example, too.

Nothing really changes it seems.

Permalink to Comment

30. AnonGSK on December 2, 2011 11:07 PM writes...

@Jim: Yup, it's win-win. By keeping poor candidates in development longer, research gets to keep their jobs a little longer, while management inflates their pipeline size (and stock price). By the time it hits the fan, it's Somebody Else's Problem.

Permalink to Comment

31. AnonGSK on December 2, 2011 11:10 PM writes...

@Jim: Yup, it's win-win. By keeping poor candidates in development longer, research gets to keep their jobs a little longer, while management inflates their pipeline size (and stock price). By the time it hits the fan, it's Somebody Else's Problem.

Permalink to Comment

32. Anaphylaxis on December 3, 2011 5:53 AM writes...

"The old Glaxo was arrogant", is this meant to be ironic? When it comes to arrogance, Vallance, Slaoui et al could teach old Glaxo a few things and Glaxo in the old days had people like the recently departed David Jack and John Bradshaw among others to brag about. Sadly, the sycophancy evinced by "Open2Innovation" (what a joke!) is quite typical of what the hard-pressed non-management GSK workers are subjected to routinely, exGlaxoid and others have hit the nail on the head. Things will not change until the management changes but by then it will be too late for the research part of R&D. As for the much-vaunted science park at Stevenage, it is unclear how GSKers will be able to interact with it and under what terms, that's assuming it gets some tenants and doesn't end up as a white elephant. There are already concerns about "confidentiality" and talk of restricting science park workers to certain areas, e.g. ground floor building 1. So much for "Open Innovation"! The term "Folie de Grandeur" comes to mind when discussing Slaoui, Vallance, and Vallance's academic "superstar" cronies, sorry "researchers" who have been drafted in. But as the economic situation in general, and the pharmaceutical sector in particular, are in such a bad state, most people are just glad to have a job so a lot of people are hanging on grimly and just hoping that the UK redundancy package doesn't get trashed!

Permalink to Comment

33. All this will pass on December 3, 2011 9:01 AM writes...

@Anaphylaxis - good points.

Regarding GSK management - a time will come (soon?) when Slaoui/Vallance move on to make way for new leaders who will quickly highlight the deficiences of "the old GSK" to justify yet another reorganisation.

However, the terminal problem lies in the 'political class' of middle-managers who surf effortlessly over the redundancy pools and bend enthusiastically to every new approach being advocated - while all the time, unflinchingly holding their interests above those of their scientists and any real progress.

The DPU's will only work if these guys are made the first to go down with their ships.


Permalink to Comment

34. mother nature on December 3, 2011 9:22 AM writes...

I have worked at several big pharma companies and GSK is quite peculiar in its own right. R&D is a stunningly inefficient operation, run by buisness people and as a whole, has almost an insistent refusal to establish clear program goals and then critically review, heade relevant data and then make informed decisions from the data. Constant organizational maneuvers and $$ cuts in IT and essential buisness costs have crippled early R&D in an attempt to feed the late phase development beast. Moncef's DPU model has succeeded in its goal of making the units competetive. what isnt discussed is mgmt's current fallout of getting DPUs to talk to each other and share resources, which of course, they dont...because they compete against each other and dont want to give each other an edge. Point...Moncef. And just like a moat-less biotech trying to get big Pharma to purchase their assets (Sirtris) in an attempt to survive, the DPU's persistently embellish their data to paint hope and success where none exists. 2 points...Moncef. Experienced and vocal people are gone, real talent has been silenced and less talent-endowed ladder climbers have clammered up to mgmt positions, with the root cause of GSK's R&D problems being indecisive mgmt too scared to voice any problems for fear of retribution. Point...HR. Indecisive on merger issues, indecisive on development issues and indecisive on research issues. At the core of their indecisiveness is a lack of any real scientific talent or even ability to manage it. Good luck Moncef, your message is disseminated and implemented through this very mgmt that has evolved out of your 5 years at the RD helm. They can embrace it or they can pitch it in such a way as to construct their own agenda while making you think they are on board. The question is whether your plan is solid, whether mgmt is agreeable to it and whether you can trust them to follow through in a common mission. As it stands, job preservation is currently everyone's primary concern, not bringing medicines to the people. You have created this environment, so own it.

Permalink to Comment

35. Clueless on December 3, 2011 10:04 AM writes...

Not surprising again that how scientific advances in biomedical research have influenced the drug discovery process and why changes would be required were never mentioned in comments above.....

Permalink to Comment

36. anon on December 3, 2011 12:23 PM writes...

#34 - agree on several points. Job preservation is certainly a major goal - and the DPUs are clearly in competition, even within the same theraputic area. The DPU size seems to be shrinking further, without the critical mass of experienced people to deliver on the goals. Figure that there will be an exodus of scientists into business or other fields that may be percieved as safer (i.e. not having to fight your colleagues for a job in your field every evaluation cycle, which seem to be getting shorter as a trend).

Permalink to Comment

37. Anonymous on December 3, 2011 3:56 PM writes...

@4
""During that time (2001-2010) of the GSK shift to the SKB way, the number of truely novel and useful compounds discovered dropped to nearly zero. The people responsible that discovered the drugs in the earlier period were almost all laid off, as they were "too old" or "not willing to work in the new paradigm""

Don't forget favoritism, bias and targeting. This is most likely why these individuals are gone. All you have to do is challenge, disagree with or prove one of the managers wrong and you will be targeted. It's management egos that's the problem for all big pharma...

Permalink to Comment

38. current GSK on December 3, 2011 9:15 PM writes...

Speaking as someone who joined GSK in the CEDD era and has been in a DPU for the first cycle -- I really want this to work. In the CEDD era, the CEDD head didn't know my name (I'm a PhD scientist, non-manager.) Any idea I had would have to get through two meetings for the CEDD head to hear it, and at one of those meetings, my VP would present my idea to the CEDD head – not me. Now, the DPU head knows my name, and I've met Patrick and Moncef once or twice each because of ideas I put forth.

I am psyched about how easy it would be to start a dpu. I turned down jobs in academics because I couldn't get my ideas funded. Venture capital funding, same deal. But here, there is an almost yearly call for new proposals to investigate outside of your reporting line. The scientific opportunities are really there.

So that's really awesome, and I'm not agilist. I'd like to complain now, because I am american, which means that if I get laid off by GSK, my family could wind up without health insurance. My three year old son with vasculitis could literally die for lack of good care. I wonder if Patrick and Moncef are aware of this reality, given that they're both from countries with socialized medicine. We get emails asking us to write to our legislators to oppose obamacare, and I'm like "Ok, give me health insurance for life and I'll do it." So this DPU-shuffling thing is WAY more serious in the US than it is in the UK, if people wind up getting laid off. I am actually considering leaving GSK for an academic job, simply because of the health insurance situation, despite the loss of scientific opportunity here.

I also do agree with many of the statements made above – the middle managers who are retained through the shuffles are all great at criticizing others’ ideas, and never put an original idea of their own forward. The current VPs are all very conservative and quiet, none of them is going to stick their neck out for my stupid idea without ten National Academy members telling them to do so. Thank god for those opportunities to propose stuff outside of the reporting lines. I’ve seen two of the loud, brash VPs who has a good idea every ten seconds leave GSK to become CEOs at small biotechs. This appears to be the only way to get rich and put a drug into the clinic anyhow, given the current envrionment at Big Pharma.

Anyway, for the sake of early discovery at big pharma and for the sake of my ability to get my ideas into the clinic, I desperatetly want this DPU re-shuffling thing to work. I totally agree with Patrick that there should be a way to convene a group of scientists around a druggable idea, then dissolve them if it doesn’t fly -- without threatening their careers. Hopefully this is the way. If it ain’t, I’ll wind up cherry-picking data like the rest of the academics just to save my job….

Permalink to Comment

39. LegacyMerckGuy on December 4, 2011 7:42 PM writes...

Wow. I can't wait until the consultants offer this turd to the execs here. I have enother question: how are the progams that are intertwined because there is something in PhIII going to fare if the compound dies for some reason? We all know that programs are killed before the cause of the problem is identified. So does this mean that people are going to lose their jobs because of trigger happy execs?

Permalink to Comment

40. WB on December 4, 2011 11:35 PM writes...

Wouldn't it be ironic if the reason why pharma is doing so badly is largely because of these stressful and costly reorganizations? I've always believed that drug discovery took a lot of time, patience and good cooperation between scientists. I also believe that people in finance and marketing don't really have a clue how big the market is for a particular drug until they actually start selling it.

Permalink to Comment

41. another ex-GSK on December 5, 2011 12:29 PM writes...

As another ex-GW then ex-GSKer, I'll add my two pennies (or cents). The GW/SB merger was a killer not because it all went one way or another, but because management couldn't decide which way to go (not suprising considering cupboards of both GW and SB were completely empty on merger). There were 2 US HQs for goodness sake until Witty finally settled on RTP! GSK spent 8 years drifting about, panicing about lack of compounds, implementing reform after reform. Many criticise Witty (and as I was made redundent on his watch, I have no reason to support him) but he has offered a focus for the company. It might be all a pile of crap, but at least they know where they're going!

Permalink to Comment

42. oldtimer on December 5, 2011 4:06 PM writes...

The ex Glaxo, GW, GSK people have it right. The GW merger strengthened the company bringing in new ideas, the SB merger did the opposite. With a CEO who rarely deigned to leave Phildelphia and drafted in academics (a mistake David Jack also made but rapidly corrected) who looked down on drug hunters, especially chemists, things slipped badly. The CEDDs, a good idea in theory, were bedevilled by ego-trips and national favoritism. The DPUs are better but destructive rivalry and lack of cooperation need stamping out. The naming of a "failed" leader in the recent reappraisal was inexcusable.

Permalink to Comment

43. Hap on December 5, 2011 5:56 PM writes...

I know this is stupid at this stage of the discussion, but are people's jobs on the line at the DPU's? I still think that it might not work well, because of the incentives people have and don't have, but if it isn't career-killing to have your section dissolved, then it probably isn't as bad as I had thought.

Permalink to Comment

44. formerGSK on December 7, 2011 3:10 PM writes...

I worked within a DPU for a couple of years. Conceptually I though the DPU was on the right lines, as an empowered biotech-like unit, but inside the reality is completely different. Despite their rhetoric GSK is simply not populated by entrepreneurial, go-getting scientists; there's a lot of mediocrity, but also a lot of fear and paralysis due to constant change. Also, far from being independent, the harmonization, control measures and reviews are stifling - it's a very top-down company and the management are not able to resist tinkering. DPU co-operation is a force-fit as no truly competitive DPU head would really share if it made another DPU look better than them. In biotech the price of failure is we go out of business and everyone gets fired. Few will lose their jobs in the current DPU reshuffling, not because they shouldn't (and some should IMHO as some of the ideas they are working on are ludicrous) but because there is little money for redundancies.

The concern is that despite the good intentions a DPU is the worst of all worlds. The price of failure is low in that you're likely to get reshuffled. The value of success is low in that at best you get to keep your job. Motivation is low as the buzz, focus and immediacy of biotech is lacking, and consequently the tendency is to play safe rather than innovate.

I'd love this to work - world healthcare needs a new and better model to come up with better drugs - but I just can't see it. Good luck guys.

P.S. Oh - and I agree with a previous comment above. The naming of a former DPU head in the Bloomberg article was a disgrace. They should be ashamed.

Permalink to Comment

45. Anonymous on December 8, 2011 5:29 AM writes...

Great comment #44 formerGSK, reading it just makes me so glad I got the package and got out when I did. Hopefully, things will pick up in the industry and the many good people still there will get a chance to jump ship too and leave Vallance, Slaoui, et al to stew in their own mess.

Permalink to Comment

POST A COMMENT




Remember Me?



EMAIL THIS ENTRY TO A FRIEND

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):




RELATED ENTRIES
Amicus Fights Its Way Through in Fabry's
Did Pfizer Cut Back Some of Its Best Compounds?
Don't Optimize Your Plasma Protein Binding
Fluorinated Fingerprinting
One of Those Days
ChemDraw Days
Incomprehensible Drug Prices? Think Again.
Proteins Grazing Against Proteins