The futurist Eric Garland posed an interesting question in the Ning Competitive Intelligence community

recently, asking in the wake of the Wyeth-Pfizer news what strategic decisions we would like to see taken.  His own take?

"I'd love to see companies:
  • Admitting that giant R&D is insufficiently productive, and working to leverage Open Source research business models
  • Basing its future business model around the fact that the U.S.
    private healthcare system is going to fold in the next few years, and
    thinking up innovative pricing models
  • Focusing on deep expertise in certain diseases, especially chronic disease
  • Pioneering new ways to relate to doctors, accepting that the sales rep/advertising model is close to extinct."

All very good points indeed and ones I agree with.

If we look at some of the interesting developments in oncology recently, they have come from Genentech, an independent biotechnology company partly owned by Roche.  Small is sometimes better, more nimble and more productive.  Except that Roche are now signalling aggressive hostile action to snap up the remaining 44% they don't own. 

Over the last few years, Genentech have been busily searching out cool technologies and licensing them from smaller biotechnology companies such they they now have an interesting pipeline that makes many big pharma companies green with envy.  Some of them will be long shots, some might make it through to market and make a difference, but the important thing is thinking big picture for the long run. 

I'd like to see more pharma companies look at their pipelines and think about stocking up on licensing some of these technologies and products as opposed to the traditional approach of dinosaur mergers, which are often great for the short rather than the long term.

What else might be a positive step forward?

  • Greater involvement in health and medical education
  • Rekindling sponsorship in basic research and science, which leads to greater innovation and better, more targeted therapies
  • Reducing bureaucracy; as companies get bigger systems and procedures often grind creativity and innovation to a halt
  • Smaller, more nimble business units with greater integration from bench to bedside. Scientists, clinicians and marketers can all learn together and work as fully functioning team rather than being bogged down in silo and turf protection mentality
  • Less 'me-toos' and more risk taking
  • A sharper focus on strategy and not size for the sake of it

What I see is a dearth of innovation, both in drug development but also the science and technology driving it.

Meanwhile, the innovative pricing models that Eric mentions are already happening now, as seen by companies such as Genentech, Celgene and Pfizer in their approach to the UK's NICE pricing negotiations (see yesterday's blog post).  We have yet to see the US move to a more price sensitive market, but the European countries are already leading the way in this area, with a strong focus on demonstrating pharmacoeconomic and quality of life benefit.

As big pharma moves towards less competition and greater consolidation (viz Pfizer, Roche, Merck and sanofi-aventis to name a few), the medium sized pharma and biotechnology companies are taking a more focused approach and looking for biotechnology companies to replenish their pipelines.  With the economy tanking, they should gets good deals and hopefully, some blockbusters for the future.

Sometimes though, the world is not enough, as James Bond found.  When everyone zigs, it might be more successful to zag rather than follow the herd.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]