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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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« More on the NIH and Its Indian Clinical Trials | Main | China's GlaxoSmithKline Crackdown »

July 17, 2013

The GSK Jackpot

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Posted by Derek

Well, this got my attention: according to the Sunday Times, GlaxoSmithKline is preparing to hand out hefty bonus payments to scientists if they have a compound approved for sale. Hefty, in this context, means up to several million dollars. The earlier (and much smaller) payouts for milestones along the way will disappear, apparently, to be replaced by this jackpot.

The article says that "The company will determine who is entitled to share in the payout by judging which staff were key to its discovery and development", and won't that be fun? In Germany, the law is that inventors on a corporate patent do get a share of the profits, which can be quite lucrative, but it means that there are some very pointed exchanges about just who gets to be an inventor. The prospect of million-dollar bonuses will be very welcome, but will not bring the best in some people, either. (It's not clear to me, though, if these amounts are to be split up among people somehow, or if single individuals can possibly expect that much).

John LaMattina has some thoughts on this idea here. He's also wondering how to assign credit:

I am all for recognizing scientists in this way. After all, they must be successful in order for a company the size of GSK to have a sustaining pipeline. However, the drug R&D process is really a team effort and not driven by an individual. The inventor whose name is on the patent is generally the chemist or chemists who designed the molecule that had the necessary biological activity. Rarely, however, are chemists the major contributor to the program’s success. Oftentimes, it is a biologist who conceives the essence of the program by the scientific insight he or she might have. The discovery of Pfizer’s Xeljanz is such a case. There have been major classes of drugs that have been saved by toxicologists who ran insightful animal experiments to explain aberrant events in rats as was done by Merck with both the statins and proton-pump inhibitors – two of the biggest selling classes of drugs of all time.

On occasion, the key person in a drug program is the process chemist who has designed a synthesis of the drug that is amenable to the large scales of material needed to conduct clinical trials. Clinical trial design can also be crucial, particularly when studying a drug with a totally new mechanism of action. A faulty trial design can kill any program. Even a nurse involved in the testing of a drug can make the key discovery, as happened in Pfizer’s phase 1 program with Viagra, where the nurse monitoring the patients noticed that the drug was enhancing blood flow to an organ other than the heart. To paraphrase Hilary Clinton, it takes a village to discover and develop a drug.

You could end up with a situation where the battery is arguing with the drive shaft, both of whom are shouting at the fuel pump and refusing to speak to the tires, all because there was a reward for whichever one of them was the key to getting the car to go down the driveway.

There's another problem - getting a compound to go all the way to the market involves a lot of luck as well. No one likes to talk about that very much - it's in everyone's interest to show how it was really due to their hard work and intelligence - but equal amounts of hard work and brainpower go into projects that just don't make it. Those are necessary, but not sufficient. So if GSK is trying to put this up as an incentive, it's only partially coupled to factors that the people it's aimed at can influence.

And as LaMattina points out, the time delay in getting drugs approved is another factor. If I discover a great new compound today, I'll be lucky to see it on the market by, say, 2024 or so. I have no objection to someone paying me a million dollars on that date, but it won't have much to do with what I've been up to in the interim. And in many cases, some of the people you'd want to reward aren't even with the company by the time the drug makes it through, anyway. So while I cannot object to drug companies wanting to hand out big money to their scientists, I'm not sure what it will accomplish.

Comments (71) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business and Markets | Drug Development | Who Discovers and Why


1. ted on July 17, 2013 10:58 AM writes...

Of course, simply increasing your successful R&D staff's salary is clearly not an option...


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2. barry on July 17, 2013 11:14 AM writes...

This experiment has already been run, and the data are in. For many years, Sandoz kept a dual culture. Researchers in Basel who were responsible for a lucrative product got a share in the profits thereof while researchers (in the same Sandoz) in the U.S. who had made a similar contribution got an ashtray (and often a promotion). The result was that in the U.S., researchers would draw all over the tablecloths at lunch as they discussed their progress and their woes. And researchers in Basel would lock their notebooks in their desks and talk football at lunch--it was too important to be the sole inventor to share such talk with one's colleagues. The result was that more innovation came out of the U.S. researchers' labs than out of Basel's.

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3. Shanedorf on July 17, 2013 11:33 AM writes...

One of the basic tenets of drug development is to fail fast. Since its so expensive to run clinical trials, the goal is to kill the drug sooner rather than later. After 20+ years in the CRO industry, I've seen more than my share of scientists in love with "their" drug - and refusing to acknowledge the serious problems that their program faces. With million dollar incentives, how likely is any scientist to kill his/her cash cow ? And how will the patent holder/bonus baby react when the ADME team shoots down their favorite lead ? Clearly not a well-thought out plan...

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4. Industry Guy on July 17, 2013 11:49 AM writes...

this makes me want to go work for GSK.....
oh wait, no it doesnt. Maybe they realized all the extra money they were using for bribes could be used to bribe internal staff to push garbage to sell to shareholders

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5. MoMo on July 17, 2013 11:53 AM writes...

You will see GSK scientists jockeying for position and chaos erupting with ugly molecules and poisoned wells. Sabotage and deceit will destroy teams and the breakrooms will resemble an apocolyptic zombie scene from "World War Z".

Instead of hiring and maintaining good scientific staff the leader of GSK and the Board are encouraging the equivalent incentives found in "American Idol".

Lets hope the money-crazed zombies attack the GSK leaders and board first, before such lame thinking infects the rest of Pharma!

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6. Anon on July 17, 2013 11:54 AM writes...

Man I'm going to get some flack for saying this...

"There have been major classes of drugs that have been saved by toxicologists who ran insightful animal experiments to explain aberrant events in rats as was done by Merck with both the statins and proton-pump inhibitors"

This describes a lot of how development works except that there are tons of unsung heroes. There may be decisions or insights that are revealed monthly that can alter the direction of a drug in a major way. Yet it is the inability of some of these executive, MBA driven, organization to recognize this that has led to current problems. It would make much more sense to just pay people what they are worth (Read: MORE THAN THEY MAKE NOW). There are profound thoughts that a cell biologist may not recognize in a virologist's statements...Do you really think someone from HR or upper management is going to be able to make the right calls here?!

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7. John Wayne on July 17, 2013 12:31 PM writes...

I have always been told that people respond to how they are rewarded; be careful to ensure that the behavior you want will be derived from the carrots you put in place. I can only assume that the managers of most R&D enterprises want us all to get annoyed and quit so save them money on paying out severance packages. What was the number for that truck driving school? I'm going to need that.

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8. bacillus on July 17, 2013 12:34 PM writes...

@3. You raise an interesting point. How to reward the scientists that fail fast thus saving the company hefty costs later in the development pipeline versus rewarding those who are tempted to keep such compounds alive in the hope of a big pay day in the future?

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9. Chrispy on July 17, 2013 12:35 PM writes...

Derek, you point out rightly that the timelines are too long. And the turnover in this industry means that most of the early folks will be gone by the time the payout happens. I see this money going to people in late-stage clinical development, probably the over-compensated people at the top. The folks on the patents are not at all representative of those who made a drug possible -- very often those people contributed little more than a way to craft a claim.

Is it just me or does GSK make consistently bad decisions? From open offices to Sirtris to this... These things all sound good at first blush but don't hold up to any kind of rigorous thought process. Has the culture just bred a bunch of yes men, afraid to point out the obvious to the fragile egos at the top?

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10. Anonymous on July 17, 2013 12:40 PM writes...

Back in the 70's I was working at the Sterling Winthrop Research Institute. One year the company decided to hand out bonuses to all involved in the discovery and advancement of the cardiotonic drug, amrinone, which was actually discovered by testing in a dog whole heart model. Up and down the chain of command, bonus envelopes materialized except for the BS chemist who actually made the decisions to make the molecule and send the molecule to the specific assays in which to have it tested. The higher ups got bigger bonuses than the peons as is tradition in the corporate world of merit rewards. This chemist got none.

Anyway this lowly chemist, not his boss who got his check, had to bitch high and low to finally get a modest bonus check. This happened only because of the new Institute director, a former academic, was too new to the job and did not understand it was corporate protocol to ignore trouble maker employees. So much for motivating the scientists at the bench! We all got the message loud and clear with zero distortion.

This crap always sounds good in theory. However because the way it is executed in the real world, it never lives up to the hype and in the end generally demoralizes the workers who it is supposed to motivate.

The only good thing about the GSK program is that it will never pay out, because the employees who discover a drug will be long gone in some prior downsizing, or the program will have vanished with the multiple changes in CEOs at GSK over the 15 years it will take to see a new drug materialize in the marketplace.

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11. barry on July 17, 2013 12:40 PM writes...

Science advances by falsifying hypotheses. In Drug Discovery, this often means killing projects. But the reward system has never recognized this. A scientist who advances a molecule into the clinic often gets promoted (whether it succeeds or not). A scientist who kills a project doesn't. But the former often costs the company hundreds of millions of dollars and the latter liberates those same resources for other projects that might be more worthy.

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12. JoJo on July 17, 2013 12:44 PM writes...

Why not let the teams decide the rewards? Send out ballots to all designated team members. Ask each member to write a list of the 5 most important team members that resulted in the success of the drug. To do this even better, you could have a series of votes by discipline to ensure awards go to CMC, DMPK, clinical, discovery chem, biology, etc. All upper management needs to do is budget for the awards and write the checks.

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13. anchor on July 17, 2013 12:45 PM writes...

@ 11 - Spot on! I have known an individual who made a big time discovery and during the downsizing, he was gone! At this writing this molecule is worth billion plus every year and everyone is having a gala time every year but not this individual. I suppose you have better luck playing lottery!

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14. Wallace AbbVie on July 17, 2013 12:58 PM writes...

A medicinal chemistry colleague once opined that he knows he'll never win the Nobel Prize because he has at least three bosses above him.

I would imagine these million dollar payouts will follow the same trajectory...

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15. Jeff Kindler on July 17, 2013 1:01 PM writes...

Hey, million dollar bonuses are our thing. How dare you steal our thunder, you worthless lab rats.

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16. alig on July 17, 2013 1:14 PM writes...

What I read in that article is that GSK is doing away with any rewards for candidate selection, FIH and POC. Good luck with any realtime feedback on your performance. On top of that, GSK has a history of laying off employees who discover drugs and rewarding management who make billion dollar mistakes. My guess is the China fiasco is a symptom of the poor leadership at GSK.

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17. Nick K on July 17, 2013 1:21 PM writes...

This is a cretinous idea, even by the standards of GSK, which will destroy any remaining collegiality and collaboration in the company.

Agilist, where are you?

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18. CMCguy on July 17, 2013 1:22 PM writes...

More of the "Show with no Substance" mantra as I would also suggest sounds just like a scheme for Execs to hold back so they can eventually increase their own bonuses. As most activities now are more and more outsourced they will not be able to identify internal people with enough contribution to meet criteria and contractors are not eligible so therefore the rewards funds still get distributed upwards (just like now).

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19. Another Derek on July 17, 2013 1:22 PM writes...

This strikes me as a recipe for disaster unless (and probably even if) very carefully done. As a former in-house pharma patent attorney, I know all too well the complaining over who got named as inventors on patent applications, particularly from the biologists etc. who tested the compounds that the medicinal chemists made. And that was with no money involved, and no-one at the time knew whether the compounds were going anywhere - this was just over names on a piece of paper. With real money involved, and years down the road, it's going to be a train wreck.

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20. Mike W on July 17, 2013 1:26 PM writes...

The most cynical posts - 10,11,14 - seem to me to raise the most salient points. Just as ex-scientists who are now execs who spend their time trying to avoid making decisions wind up on all of the patents and papers, those same execs will be the first ones to be assured they will get their bonuses, and also be the most likely to actually be around when the bonuses are given.

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21. MTK on July 17, 2013 1:31 PM writes...

Nobody likes to be the contrarian and go against the hyper anti-management sentiment usually exhibited in the comments on this blog, but...

if this bonus structure really is implemented as described it's one of the dumber ideas I've heard in awhile.

I'm trying to think of a term that's the opposite of "brainchild", because it doesn't seem like a brain is where this thing originated from.

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22. anon on July 17, 2013 1:39 PM writes...

Achieving a POC was worthy of big bonuses years ago at GSK for SVPs in Discovery. This engendered a atmosphere of fraud and corruption from our GSK Italian colleagues in CNS that would make the Chinese proud.

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23. MTK on July 17, 2013 1:46 PM writes...

The worst part about this idea as I think about it more is that if upper management is truly serious in their intentions and designs here is that it indicates a complete and fundamental ignorance of how drug discovery works.

I find it hard to believe that the level of ignorance could be that total, however, which leads me to cynically agree with CMCguy that this is a pure all hat, no cattle play only meant to show shareholders and others that GSK is really trying to "innovate" how it manages R&D.

I'm not sure which of the two scenarios is worse.

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24. Wallace AbbVie on July 17, 2013 1:53 PM writes...

Success has many fathers; failure is an orphan.

Success with millions in bonus money on the line will, indeed, have many fathers fighting over it.

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25. Hap on July 17, 2013 2:13 PM writes...

What should they do? Outcomes are so disconnected in time from those that made them possible that cause-and-effect is difficult to untangle, and paying for stuff that doesn't help you is worse than useless.

Sorting the most critical players in the making of a drug is going to be hard at the early stages and easier for late-stage people (in which case the money will likely reward people already being rewarded). If it does pay out for early-stage people, then you don't want people to get attached to projects they shouldn't get attached to because they can make money, and you don't want people to become even more competitive and parsimonious with useful information. This would also devalue decisions to kill drugs that should be killed.

The problem with rewarding "righteous kills" of bad candidates is that you won't be sure that you made the right decision unless 1) someone higher up ignored it and realized they shouldn't have, 2) you spend lots of money to verify whether the decision was correct, or 3) one of your competitors develops it and finds out what you already knew (which if your patent people are competent, they shouldn't be able to do). None of these seem like high-probability events, so you're going to wonder whether the compound killer you reward is actually correct. In addition, people don't need any more reasons to slaughter the few remaining candidates.

If you raise everyone's pay, you need to know that you've hired the correct people or you're spending too much money and not getting enough. You also can't easily cut pay if something bad happens (at least not in the US - it's easier now, but not easy) and it engenders bad feelings, whether deserved or not, unless everyone is together in their mission and the pain is divided fairly.

Paying everyone for clinical success might mean everyone would be on the same page, but it would also reward lots of people who may have done nothing (and may mean that people free-ride). It might work well, but people would have to feel that they are fairly rewarded, that the company cares about them, and that their work matters. All of those seem in short supply everywhere, however, and a bonus program wouldn't be so necessary if they were already present.

This is probably a bad idea, and the improvements that might best improve productivity and morale both seem contrary to their interests (throwing people overboard to boost stock makes telling your employees they matter ineffective) and perhaps not in their power to achieve. I'm not sure what they should do, though.

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26. Anon on July 17, 2013 2:19 PM writes...

They seem to be doing away with all rewards and instead are creating one large phantom reward.

A company will only have of drugs [created exclusively in house] that will make it to market in the next 10 years.
That means they don't have to any random scientist a bonus for the next 10 years or so (...assuming it can go from discovery to market that quickly), and even then the sdds are in the realm of 1/5 of getting ANY bonus beyond those 10 years.
Then you throw in the vagueness of who is a contributor.
...Essentially what GSK is doing is trimming compensation over the next 10 years by spinning it like this.
Its actually pretty clever.

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27. Anon-correction on July 17, 2013 2:26 PM writes...

They seem to be doing away with all rewards and instead are creating one large phantom reward.

A company will only have a handful of drugs [created exclusively in house] that will make it to market in the next 10 years.
That means they don't have to give scientists a bonus for the next 10 years or so (...assuming it can go from discovery to market that quickly), and even then the odds of a random scientist in the company having that the opportunity to even take a shot at the bonus is in the realm of 1/5, 10 years from now.
Then you throw in the vagueness of who is a contributor.
...Essentially what GSK is doing is trimming compensation over the next 10 years by spinning it like this.
Its actually pretty clever.

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28. Anonymous on July 17, 2013 2:29 PM writes...

Will the CEO wait until the drug programs started on his watch materialize as products in the market before he cashes any of his bonus checks?

Incentives should be the same for all the team members including the CEO, right?

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29. johnnyboy on July 17, 2013 3:06 PM writes...

GSK is just a festival of shit ideas, isn't it ? Sorry, can't stay polite for that one, the level of utter stupidity behind this is too mind-boggling.

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30. At A. Vist on July 17, 2013 3:12 PM writes...

Don't bankers get these bonuses EVERY year?

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31. Hap on July 17, 2013 3:15 PM writes...

@28: I'm glad I wasn't drinking anything.

The market has said that upper management is WAY more valuable than the peons....err, lower-level employees - after all, could the peons have come up with an idea like this? Of course not. Where else do you think these ideas could have come from?

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32. newnickname on July 17, 2013 3:21 PM writes...

Before I cash the check, I have a question. If the drug I invented works well against the targeted disease or disorder and makes a decent profit but then gets taken over by the Marketing Department and promoted for use as a cure-all for everything and gets over prescribed and a bunch of patients who should never have taken the drug in the first place die and their families sue the company and get huge settlements ... will I have to give back my bonus and also help to pay off the lawsuits?

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33. Ted on July 17, 2013 3:33 PM writes...

This will certainly help in creating more project 'champions'.

My stance when running a med. chem. project was: the harder we can make it on our candidate, the more stringent our applied tests, the stronger our proposed lead will be. The sooner we can prove any hypothesis which unambiguously kills our project, the sooner we can all move onto one which will work.

For the most part, my line management felt I needed to be more of a project 'champion.' This is apparently some model of behavior contrary to my stated stance...

Leaving project management behind and sticking to the bench was hard at first - now I feel like a genius.

Of course, getting out of pharma just feels better and better every day.

Bonuses: The Optional Part of Your Salary That We Pay When We Like and Beat You Over the Head With the Other 364 Days a Year.


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34. Shanedorf on July 17, 2013 3:33 PM writes...

At a recent Partnering meeting, the Big Pharma companies all said they were getting between 45-70% of their clinical candidates from outside their walls via license, collaboration, acquisition. So approximately half of what GSK works on isn't available for bonus payouts in the new plan

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35. Lyle Langley on July 17, 2013 4:04 PM writes...

@11, Barry and others...
"Science advances by falsifying hypotheses. In Drug Discovery, this often means killing projects. But the reward system has never recognized this. A scientist who advances a molecule into the clinic often gets promoted (whether it succeeds or not). A scientist who kills a project doesn't. But the former often costs the company hundreds of millions of dollars and the latter liberates those same resources for other projects that might be more worthy."

I get the idea, but, one cannot sustain a company on killing projects. Plus, the idea of fail early and fail often has the same kind of response as keeping a project going way too long...if you reward someone for a number, then numbers you'll get - good or bad. Sometimes, someone needs to take a risk and if you reward for killing projects, nobody will take a risk.

@21, MTK...

Opposite of "brainchild" is "asschild", because that's where it was pulled out of.

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36. Hap on July 17, 2013 4:18 PM writes...

I didn't think children came from the intestinal tract, except maybe the aliens from the Alien series...maybe that's a better analogy than I thought.

I wonder if Paul Reiser would take time from work to go to GSK?

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37. z on July 17, 2013 4:44 PM writes...

Does anyone have a good number for how many people have impacted a typical program from its beginning up until the point it becomes a marketed drug? I realize that all programs are different, and everyone has a different definition of impact, but I was wondering if there's any general ball-park figure?

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38. z on July 17, 2013 4:49 PM writes...

I worked at a company that tied everyone's bonuses to metrics for having a certain number of compounds to each of various stages. Later, this idea was widely panned for encouraging people to advance crap compounds. I see some similarities to this idea....

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39. JC on July 17, 2013 5:40 PM writes...

All your bonus are belong to us.

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40. ex-GSK on July 17, 2013 6:39 PM writes...

Fun fact: for a while the CEDDs in GSK got to declare 'clinical candidates' (maybe still do?) and these were key bonus objectives. Guess what the number one predictor of early attrition (1st 12 months after candidate selection) was?

Month of selection - December candidates were ephemeral.

This is an obvious behavioral consequence in the GSK culture - maybe any culture.

As a co-inventor of a GSK billion dollar a year drug, I would have welcomed a fair and reasonable award that included the large group of people who contributed. I would not have wanted to be singled out with the other inventor as "the winner". DD is team science and it should be rewarded that way.

In my case, I did get a $5K "CEO's award" - long before the drug was launched. I spent about 1/3 on taking the project team out to a super fancy dinner, the rest on a Disney trip w my wife and children. I felt rewarded at the time.

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41. Anonymous on July 17, 2013 9:21 PM writes...

If you only reward the approvals, you are not rewarding the good science that goes into every step of the way. I've been a proponent for rewarding making the right decision at go/no go driven by well designed and executed experiments that answer key questions. I know that it is a harder sell, but I seem to be at the right size company now. A big enough pipeline that one failure isn't the end but small enough that one "peon" can get the ear of some senior managers. I was on a team with a Phase 3 failure that was rewarded for a great trial design and execution that generated an unequivocal answer. Now we're taking what we learned from that to design a better Phase 2 for the next molecule.

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42. RD on July 17, 2013 10:19 PM writes...

Let's see. The political middle manager who runs the chemistry group will claim he needs to be on everything, the chemists in general will try to preserve their bigger slices of pie by throwing everyone else off of the patent and the structural biologists and modelers will get the shaft- again.
That sounds about right.

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43. Sisyphus on July 17, 2013 11:44 PM writes...

Sounds like a book I once read. It was titled "Lord of the Flies". I suggest GSK execs consider how well this is working for Sears (SHLD):

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44. adk on July 18, 2013 1:13 AM writes...

Well, well, well.... For years,upper management in Pharma has been getting million dollar bonuses on the backs of the many people in R&D who make drug creation possible. For a concrete example, look at the compensation the senior team at Vertex has/was pulling down for the approval and launch of Kalydeco and Telaprevir (literally millions and millions of dollars) and then, ask the people in R&D and the people on the NDA teams what they got for all their hard work. For telaprevir, some were let go immediately after the NDA was filed (in record time no less), some got to have their picture taken with the head of R&D, and everyone in the company got one share of Vertex stock- regardless of whether they worked on the program. There was no bonus for most if not all of the team. Sweet huh? But for who?

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45. adk on July 18, 2013 1:16 AM writes...

Well, well, well.... For years,upper management in Pharma has been getting million dollar bonuses on the backs of the many people in R&D who make drug creation possible. For a concrete example, look at the compensation the senior team at Vertex has/was pulling down for the approval and launch of Kalydeco and Telaprevir (literally millions and millions of dollars) and then, ask the people in R&D and the people on the NDA teams what they got for all their hard work. For telaprevir, some were let go immediately after the NDA was filed (in record time no less), some got to have their picture taken with the head of R&D, and everyone in the company got one share of Vertex stock- regardless of whether they worked on the program. There was no bonus for most if not all of the people who worked on the program. Sounds unbelievable but unfortunately it is true.

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46. London_Chemist on July 18, 2013 3:19 AM writes...

If LaMattina thinks its such a good idea, why didn't he start it when he was in charge at Pfizer?
Will be intersting to see how many people "contributed" when things are going well. Who said "Success has many parents but failure is an orphan". Edison?

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47. Xero on July 18, 2013 4:28 AM writes...

@6: ...and our HR team (as I've heard) says let the chemist go if he has resigned, we'll give you the other (better one!) in comparatively less salary!
Wow...I wonder if GSK bench chemist keeps details of synthesis with himself and run away to work on the same in say China/Asia.

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48. Anonymous on July 18, 2013 4:53 AM writes...

#26/27 - ding ding, we have a winner!

"A company will only have a handful of drugs [created exclusively in house] that will make it to market in the next 10 years"

GSK doesn't even have a handful

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49. anon2 on July 18, 2013 6:03 AM writes...

And, this scheme has not been told to GSK staff least in the US. So typicaly of GSK management's style to release to the general press before sharing internally. They'd certainly be up to that scheme in able to get maximum "wow" factor by writers and the public. Internally, folks will be less impressed or excited or motivatd for many of the reasons already state in Comments of this site.

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50. simpl on July 18, 2013 6:15 AM writes...

I recall once getting an umbrella, along with several hundred others, as a reward for my part in introducing a calcium antagonist on a fast timeline. Even that was unfair, because if you had asked for support for this priority project, you got help instead of the more usual prevarication.

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51. exGlaxoid on July 18, 2013 8:04 AM writes...

The key to this proposal is that it will be 10 years before anyone can get paid under this scheme. Then before that time is up, they will change the plan back to do something different.

There were finally people getting paid for the drugs getting to the clinic under the current system, as there were a few scientists left who discovered drugs who had not been laid off yet. Now that problem is fixed.

If you look at every drug made at GSK in the US, almost every single discovered of those was laid off in the last 5 years. That includes people who had worked on 2 or 3 drugs that made it to market. I don't see them getting big checks for their work, most are not getting ANY check from GSK.

I do know that in the old days of BW, Glaxo, and GW, some scientists and teams were given bonuses for getting drugs to market, but most were pretty modest. I few were pretty large, but in the end, even a few million is a drop in the bucket compared to one Lipitor, Zantac, or Advair that makes it to market.

I am a large proponent of the entire team getting a large bonus when a drug makes it to an EXTERNALLY agreed upon milestone, such that there is outside agreement that a goal was reached. I have to agree that internally chosen "Candidates" were often terrible at year end.

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52. annonie on July 18, 2013 8:10 AM writes...

In the "old" extra reward system for GSK, those who would be eligible were only active employees; anyone no longer working for the company who left for any reason could no longer get any reward. Fair, no, but it' the way they did it. Also, the major awards when a NCE was approved for use could be substantial, up to 6 or even 7 figures ususally given as GSK stock grants.

So, if someone made a very major contribution to a specfic compound's discovery or progression success and they were no longer there, even if "made redundant" by the company, such persons would get ..... NOTHING.

I know of a situation where someone was given a major award after some considerable debate and re-review by upper management following the normal committee system. When they heard of the substantial amount (I believe it was $1m in stock grants), they said that they did not want it, that they did not deserve it as the entire effort was a group accomplishment. GSK said that declining was not an option!

How do you suppose the new scheme will work? Hmmm, betcha that it will be the same, that if the person(s) are no longer there that they would get zippo, even if they had been "deselected" just a few months or a year before.

So, so typical of GSK's schemes to reward & motivate. Staff are so cynical about such things that they shake their heads,then go back to grinding away as many are still trying to do the best they can.

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53. Cytirps on July 18, 2013 8:13 AM writes...

The concept is pretty much like ACS Heroes of Chemistry, except it comes with a big cash prize. Everyone loves American Idol.

Btw, kudos to Derek for removing bogus comments using false identity. Hope NSA or Google did not capture those comments before they were deleted.

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54. Hap on July 18, 2013 9:41 AM writes...

If your people think that you mean what you say, and that you will treat them fairly, that the company and its employees share (stated) common goals and that it is willing to commit the resources to achieve those goals, if you treat your employees humanely (appreciating them when things go well, trying to be as kind as possible when things go bad), then you wouldn't need large bonus systems to encourage your employees. If you do the opposite of these things (which sounds like most employers nowadays), no bonus system is going to make your employees work harder or better for you.

Does the first scenario or its opposite sound more like GSK (or the rest of pharma) now?

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55. cynical1 on July 18, 2013 9:43 AM writes...

"The reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more."

Jonas Salk

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56. Hap on July 18, 2013 10:02 AM writes...

Maybe I was asking too much. On the other hand, pharma won't give people who work well the opportunity to do more, unless do more = collect unemployment, so even that (lower) standard seems to be missed by far.

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57. Doug Steinman on July 18, 2013 11:45 AM writes...

It seems to me that this program will exist solely to reward and retain upper management. The bench scientists who designed, synthesized, assayed and formulated the drugs will get nothing either because they will no longer be there or because their contributions will be deemed to have been trivial and not worthy of rewarding. Everyone who contributes to the identification of a viable clinical candidate SHOULD be rewarded. As was mentioned in a previous comment, drug discovery is a team effort. However, the reality of life in big pharma these days is that scientists need to be satisfied with the fact that they get paid to work as scientists and hope that the compensation that they receive, whether in the form of salary and / or incentives is enough to pay the bills. Looking for more than that, whether in the form of recognition or appreciation is an exercise in futility and should be avoided.

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58. Hap on July 18, 2013 12:18 PM writes...

As long as you don't expect anyone else to want to be a drug scientist, that works (and as long as there's an endless supply of cannon fodder to abuse for five years and discard).

The problem is that this program is supposed to improve GSK's ability to make drugs (or at least make investors believe that it will) and it seems unlikely to do that - even if it is real and applied honestly, people can't count on it, and the program probably is neither, but effectively a bonus cut, which is likely to lower productivity slightly, not raise it. If people aren't supposed to worry about such things, then the bonus system is irrelevant, and won't have any effect. None of these are what GSK is telling investors, though.

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59. obi wan on July 18, 2013 4:47 PM writes...

Your move to the Dark Side is now complete, young Padwan Scientist. Knowing that industry odds show a 3% chance of one of your Research programs making it to market, but a 10% chance of a Phase 1 Development program making it to market, the pressure to leave Bench Science is no longer just career-driven, but now incentivized.

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60. reward your scientists on July 18, 2013 10:26 PM writes...

The effort to reward scientists led by GSK is challenging the fundamental reward system across the whole pharmaceutical industry. The system may not be perfect right now as suggested by many comments above, but it opens the thoughts on rewarding innovative scientists for their contributions. It is industrywide mission to figure out exactly what is the best paradigm to identify the key innovators/team, pay out to those who had left the company, to truly reward the best scientists who made significant contribution to a drug for your company and patients. The bottom line is that, just like sales reward system, scientists who makes major impact should be rewarded in a big way. My two cents.

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61. RAB on July 19, 2013 1:44 AM writes...

And thank you Agilist!

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62. blueman on July 19, 2013 2:03 AM writes...

maybe - just maybe - if the industry only employed (at all levels) people for whom the reward of getting a drug to the market that improved patients lives was just that then we might have a more productive industry ?

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63. KanbanMam on July 19, 2013 5:17 AM writes...

Despite the notable cynicism of some of the comments above, I think the objective here is to genuinely reward GSK's many excellent scientists. Moncef himself has declared on more than one occasion that the lack of pecuniary recognition given by some of GSK's legacy companies to scientists who discovered game-changing medical blockbusters was shameful. These measures will go some way to addressing this situation. The great unknown here, for me at least, is how it will play with GSK's admirable commitment to open innovation and pre-competitive alliances. I'm sure Patrick, Moncef, et al will have given due consideration to this and will undoubtedly have a strategy in place to ensure that rewards are fairly apportioned and based solely on scientific merit.

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64. johnnyboy on July 19, 2013 7:30 AM writes...

@61: No, #60 wasn't Agilist, as the message didn't include the tell-tale signature of our favorite GSK cheerleader: 1) decry the cynicism of the critics, 2) provide earnest support for GSK's latest crappy move, and of course, 3) underlining the great wisdom of GSK's fearless leaders, using their first names. see #63 for details.

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65. RAB on July 19, 2013 7:35 AM writes...

@64-you are correct! (I was momentarily fooled by the name "reward your scientists" which reminded me of "open to innovation")

At least GSK is getting good value from its PR people...

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66. alig on July 19, 2013 8:04 AM writes...

@63 Patrick & Moncef have given the same due consideration to this plan as they did to the Sirtris buyout.

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67. MoMo on July 19, 2013 11:00 AM writes...

It took a while for the GSK trolls to surface, Eh?

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68. exGlaxoid on July 22, 2013 8:18 AM writes...


If Moncef felt so bad about it, why did they not reward the people that got drugs to market for the last 10 years? The people that I knew who were part of successful teams that got drugs to market were almost all laid off by Moncef and his crew.

Having heard Moncef talk many times, he was full of hot air, but he appears responsible, more than anyone, not only for the lack of recognition of scientists, as well as the destruction of the great science that GSK used to have. I witnessed the waste of money that his ideas and plans (and the ones of the SKB managers before him) which caused R &D to have to eliminate all of the product in house scientists so that they could buy useless companies and foreign markets.

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69. TheScarletPimple on July 22, 2013 9:16 AM writes...


Agreed, I would only add that Vallance is at least as culpable as Slaoui and bears a lot of responsibility for the trashing of the R&D organisation that followed on from debacles like Sirtris

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70. Janet on November 25, 2013 2:31 PM writes...

What about Baldoni? Isn't he also responsible for this?

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71. Janet on November 25, 2013 2:31 PM writes...

What about Baldoni? Isn't he also responsible for this?

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