“For many years the R&D spending in pharma has been growing, while the number of drugs approved has been diminishing. The good news is that R&D spending is now reducing ($35 billion worldwide in 2009–2010) and the pipeline of new drugs is growing. I believe there is a link between those pharma companies that are becoming more outward-facing and their increasing productivity,” comments Patrick Vallance, president, pharmaceuticals R&D at GlaxoSmithKline, speaking at the recent “Open Innovation in Action” Summit at Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst (SBC).
According to Clare O’Neill, Ph.D., founder of innovation consultancy, Original Ventures, open innovation is a form of collective intelligence. O’Neill explains, “Those in companies who are more connected have a higher risk of having a good idea. If you are connected to people, then ideas can be challenged from multiple angles.”
As many big pharmas are maturing they have become more akin to manufacturing organizations with less internal innovation. This is where accessing science from academic centers of excellence and SMEs can help, and delegates at the conference believe many pharmas are now altering their business model and will increasingly access innovation in drug discovery from external sources.
Vallance comments, “We have pushed the externalization agenda and have many models of how it works. We’re believers in harnessing external expertise because it is now crucial for our business to progress. We have 10,500 scientists working for us worldwide, and there is no way we’ll even have one percent of the good ideas in the world. This is why we were keen to be involved in setting up SBC as the UK’s first open innovation biomedical campus at our Stevenage site because it allows us to have links with some of the highest caliber scientists in the world without having them in-house.”
Vallance detailed that GSK now has 42 discovery performance units, which are small teams of GSK scientists focused on the discovery of medicines for specific areas of disease that are operating an open innovation strategy. These are partnerships focused on developing assets that are currently pre-proof-of-concept and include in-licenses, option collaborations, technology deals and academic collaborations, all ultimately focused on producing new molecules.