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You cannot script innovation

In April 2010 I wrote a post titled “Believe what they do, not what they say.  Is Eli Lilly really committed to innovation?” I had met Bernard Munoz, then an executive at Lilly and had spent a couple of hours listening about his research into what was making the pharmaceutical industry sick.  Essentially for the industry as a whole R&D costs were soaring but successful new drug applications were going down.  The economics were unsustainable.  The answer according to Bernard was to fundamentally change the way big pharma discovered and developed new products.  He was attending conferences all over the world presenting his facts and talking to all who would listen.

What did Lilly do?    They eliminated his job.  So much for innovation.

It was nice to see that Matthew Herper in this weeks Forbes magazine published an article on Bernard titled Rallying Pharma’s Rebels.  Herper quotes Munoz  “You cannot script innovation,” Munos says. “You cannot boil it down to a code of best practices. Because it is unpredictable and the opportunities in science do not match the opportunities in markets.”

Munoz suggests pharma drastically cut R&D budgets and use the money to make numerous small bets funding small companies in area of interest.  According to Herper, Munos’ most radical insight: Why keep researchers in house? Why not force them to form tiny companies of their own and outsource work to them?

It makes sense.  The best, most innovative ideas will get funded.  Put capitalism to work.

Bernard’s ideas are not universally accepted.  No revolutionary idea ever is.  It is nice to see that more people are listening.

Until next time – all the best!


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