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Calls For Andrew Witty’s Job at GSK

Here you are: a public call for the head of GlaxoSmithKline’s CEO, Andrew Witty:

Witty, who’s led Britain’s largest drugmaker since 2008, is facing criticism for Glaxo’s lagging share performance and a depleted pipeline of promising medicines. A bribery scandal in China that led to a $489 million fine last year and sluggish U.S. sales also eroded support.
“Mr. Witty is running out of time,” said Stephen Bailey, a fund manager at Liontrust Asset Management Plc in London, which holds Glaxo shares. “He’s either got to deliver in the next 12 months or step aside.”

It has been rough over there recently, to say the least. Here’s one analyst’s take on what they should do:

Hampton should reinvest in research at Glaxo, which is failing to produce drugs capable of boosting earnings, said Laura Foll, a fund manager at Henderson Global Investors Ltd. in London, which owns about 7.6 million shares in Glaxo.
Profits are still tied to the aging asthma drug, Advair, while demand for two new respiratory medicines, Breo and Anoro, remains sluggish. The company is considering a spinoff of its HIV medicines, although it has few compounds capable of replacing them. Foll recommends cutting the dividend to fund research, a move some investors might resist.

Now, I like the sound of that very much. But I’ll be surprised if anything like that happens. After all, the company says itself that “We are committed to using free cash flow to support increasing dividends, share repurchases or, where returns are more attractive, bolt-on acquisitions.” Do you see anything in there about using any of the free cash flow to do more research of their own? A cynical investor might say that GSK got itself into the fix it’s in now by all that R&D stuff, so why would you want them to do it even harder? But more seriously, Merck also tried to tell investors to stop pestering them while they’re discovering drugs, and that didn’t seem to last for long, either.
My guess is that if GSK were to pop up with an announcement that they’re cutting the dividend and dialing back the share buybacks in order to do more R&D, the stock would get hammered, and a lot of high-level people would end up losing their jobs for having made such unpopular decisions. It’s a shame.

83 comments on “Calls For Andrew Witty’s Job at GSK”

  1. hypnos says:

    “We are committed to using free cash flow to support increasing dividends, share repurchases or, where returns are more attractive, bolt-on acquisitions.”
    Well, if a company (or its management…) has no better use for money than to give it back to its own (or other) shareholders, why does it exist in the first place? Why should I invest in a pharma company if it behaves like an investment fund?

  2. Anonymous says:

    @1: The difference is that investment funds generate a net return by investing cash, whereas GSK just gives the cash straight back without the investment bit in the middle.

  3. Anonymous says:

    This is why I have respect for AbbVie. Say what you will about the dependence on Humira and how much they are paying for Pharmacyclics, but they are seriously building up their R&D. History has clearly taught us that cutting R&D is a guaranteed failure in the long run. At least Rick Gonzalez is doing something different by trusting in scientists. It’s not a sure win, but at least it is the opposite of every other company’s “cost cut our way to success” attitude.

  4. watcher says:

    For those who have or have had personal connections with GSK, this is only preaching to the already converted. Change at the top is long overdue, along with change in R&D management and large changes within the VP levels…eg too many, too much ego, too much personal selfishness and not enough overall objective focus. The selling of oncology assets was idiotic, as it takes possible high profit compounds away and destroys the oncology franchise. The overall decisions regarding aquisitions has been simplistic and lacking true scientific understanding and assessment of potential, or not. I’m afraid that their is no easy answer for the group; cutting dividend would certainly drop stock price, but it also might be more realistic about the true value of the company. It’s all a shame, did not have to happen this way, but shows what happens when the Board of Directors is in the pocket of the CEO and is not truly independent. A PhD or two thesis could certainly be an interesting study of misteps, poor judement, too much ego, lack of experience at the top and more.

  5. Anonymous says:

    @2: Giving money back to investors instead of investing in R&D is not a bad thing if R&D is destroying value overall. Which it is by all accounts these days. Except by luck, but gambling against the odds isn’t the way to create value either. Basically it just means that the company has just run out of options to create value, so the only sensible thing to do is to liquidate all assets and give the money back.

  6. Magrinho says:

    @5 – “by all accounts”? So we all agree that R&D is destroying value? Or that GSK’s R&D is destroying value? If you mean the latter, is it by your irrefutable logic that the next sensible thing to do is to liquidate all assets? Damn, I didn’t know it was so e=mc2.
    Have you seen biotech and pharma valuations lately? And biotechs with no products – their valuations are based upon what? Maybe R&D?
    The sensible conclusion is that R&D creates enormous value if done right. Clean house and hire competent research mgmt. That prescription is 100% scalable.

  7. Anonymous says:

    @6: Overall return on investment in pharma R&D is now less than cost of capital and still declining across the industry as a whole. Hence the flat revenue growth, flat share prices, job cuts, asset stripping, site closures, stock buybacks, etc. Wake up and smell the coffee.

  8. a. nonymaus says:

    Comedy option: replace him with Peter Thiel.

  9. Anonymous says:

    PS. Onviously I’m referring to big trends over 15 years or more, rather than annual fluctuations, which is noise and tells you nothing.

  10. steve says:

    It seems to me that the problem is that big companies no longer know how to do R&D. They therefore rely on small biotech. Maybe the right strategy is to plow some of that money into SR1 ventures, bet big on the biotechs and leverage that bet with rights of first refusal.

  11. Chris V.. says:

    Just give me a call

  12. Anonymous says:

    @10: And what value does pharma create for itself by buying or licensing drugs from biotech at fair market price?

  13. Biotech Capitalist says:

    Maybe the right question is what % of operating budget should be devoted to internal R&D, what to M&A and what to everything else ie marketing, infrastructure etc?
    This sounds like it could the subject of a Bruce Booth style blog post comparing internal R&D spending with pipeline productivity…

  14. steve says:

    @12 – I have no idea what you’re asking. Obviously, if pharma can take a promising early stage drug, take it through pivotal trials and market it then the cost of the license is just the cost of doing business.

  15. Anonymous says:

    @14: So what’s the difference between that and what pharma has being doing in any case? Clearly it can’t figure out which are the good assets in the first place, otherwise its own productivity would be higher. The only difference is it has to pay full market price (or more, in a seller’s market, where supply is limited) for any value that has already been added, thus limiting its scope to add further value.

  16. PharmaForward says:

    These opinions very much represent a minority view while the prevailing view both within the company and in the wider sector is that Sir Andrew and his team are doing remarkably well. Just today he gave a very upbeat assessment of the lie of the land at GSK that was very heartening to all who heard it. Not unlike the current UK government, he has had to deal with a lot of legacy issues. This he has done with all his customary verve and vision. R&D has been completely re-vamped and the focus is now very much on open innovation and externalization through partnerships with academic centers of excellence in the UK and North America. It will take some time for the benefits of these strategies to become apparent to the outside world but, within GSK, they have had a transformative effect on the entire drug discovery and development culture. Despite the difficulties in getting the company to this point, it is clear that GSK is on the right path and is setting the pace for its competitors.

  17. steve says:

    @15 – My point is that small, entrepreneurial biotechs are much better at drug discovery than big behemoth pharmas. They should take the risks getting drugs to POC Ph2 trials where even the MBA’s at pharmas can see the value instead of the current pharma paradigm where drugs are killed off at early stages because they don’t meet the current algorthm for predicting success.

  18. Anonymous says:

    @17: The probability of success for drugs licensed from biotech is barely higher than those from pharma. And besides, even if it was significantly higher, that would be factored into the price that pharma would have to pay. Bottom line: Pharma’s problem isn’t the lack of new drugs which it can always buy or license at full price. It’s the lack of a viable business model that creates value with innovation. Everything else is just asset swapping, with zero net value creation.

  19. HFM says:

    @16: How many research FTEs could be supported off what you get paid to monitor Google alerts?

  20. Magrinho says:

    I don’t think it is accurate or useful to think of Pharma in a monolithic sense. I constantly see comments that reflect that view. There are BIG differences among companies – some do research well and some are simply burning their money. For big pharma, the more recent the merger, the worse the situation.
    And even among therapeutic areas in the same company I’ve seen big differences in approach: external/internal spend, me-too versus novel, etc.

  21. JimmyB says:

    @16 this tells us all what we need to know about the corporate culture at GSK.
    koolaid anyone?

  22. Anonymous says:

    @20: If the overall industry is sinking fast, then the overall distribution of companies is also sinking, and that includes the positive outliers. They may be in the upper decks, but they are still sinking with the rest of the ship.

  23. Anonymous says:

    …or they’ll just get acquired, ripped apart, and brought down with all the others.

  24. johnnyboy says:

    @21: this might be your first exposure to @16, well-known around these parts (with different handles) for singing the praises of “Sir Andrew” and co. every time there is a mention of GSK on the blog. How nice that despite all their troubles, GSK still have money to pay off PR hacks.

  25. JimmyB says:

    @24 agreed
    Another thing; nobody has yet mentioned the under-performing board. Weirdly non-medical.
    Hampton has his work cut out. But he’s a banker.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Hampton is a cold ruthless turnaround guy. So expect more huge cuts. Because that’s the only thing they can do to make a difference. At least in the short term. And then output will fall, followed by more cuts, reduced output, and yet more cuts. Here witness the start of terminal decline.

  27. Elephant says:

    @16 Welcome back Agilist, we’ve missed you!

  28. steve says:

    @18 I’d like to see the stats for your assertions. Clearly having a wide variety of biotechs with different technologies, cultures and ethos is going to be much more productive than a behemoth bound by bureaucratic red tape and MBA types with no vision. Tell me what large pharma would have spent the time and money to develop monoclonals as a new therapeutic modality like Genentech did (when it was much smaller), or cytokines like Amgen or thalidomide like Celgene. These all started as small biotechs with a vision, something large pharma is currently sorely lacking.

  29. Anonymous says:

    @28 Steve: You still don’t get my point. Even if biotech is far more productive than pharma, what value does pharma add, and why should biotech do pharma any favours? It will charge pharma for every single penny of the value it has created, and pharma is still left with the dilemma of how to add value with inefficient R&D. Basically, the higher productivity of biotech means it will eventually replace pharma, not help it, because pharma isn’t adding any value itself.

  30. steve says:

    Pharma adds the ability to conduct international Ph3 trials and to use their marketing expertise to drive sales. What I’m saying is let biotech do what it does best – drug discovery – and let pharma do what it does best – big trials and marketing power.

  31. Anonymous says:

    @30: There’s really no significant difference between pharma and biotech:

  32. Anonymous says:

    @30: There’s really no significant difference between pharma and biotech:
    http://image.slidesharecdn.com/dimasi2007s-120120140513-phpapp02/95/dimasi-2007s-23-728.jpg

  33. Anonymous says:

    And regarding Phase 3 trials, biotech can outsource these to CROs and/or hire people (and let them go just as easily, as required) just as easily as pharma does, as long as it has: a) the drug; and b) the cash. Same goes for marketing.

  34. steve says:

    I don’t think you have much experience with small biotech. Most are driven by VC’s looking for an exit. While some can go IPO and raise enough money to run Ph3 studies, the strategy of most is to take their drugs to Ph2 and exit with a big pharma licensing deal or buyout. It’s not as easy as you suggest to just outsource to CROs (the best people in CROs go to those who pay the most and small biotechs often get the shaft) or just hire/fire people. It takes a lot of money and expertise to run a good Ph3 trial, including regulatory expertise, monitoring expertise and capabilities (especially for international Ph3), cold chain transport expertise, etc., etc. These are all things that large pharma has in abundance.
    Even if a biotech gets through all these hurdles, marketing and distribution is a large barrier where big pharma can be essential.
    Sure you get some companies like Genentech, Amgen, etc. that can conquer all these road blocks and end up being essentially large pharmas themselves but it’s very rare. Much more common are nimble biotechs that know their limitations and take a drug from an idea through POC clinical trials then pass it on to larger companies with the resources to do pivotal trials and take the drug to market.

  35. d says:

    16. PharmaForward on May 5, 2015 2:28 PM write
    GSK PR mole

  36. steve says:

    BTW, your slide is almost a decade old; I wonder what current stats are (and how those stats are figured). I’m willing to bet that the stats for biologics like monoclonals are much, much better than traditional small molecules so, as usual, the stats depend on how you slant them.

  37. Anonymous says:

    @34: Sure I understand, I started my own biotech company some years ago with VC funding. But actually the point is that R&D productivity is declining so fast for both pharma and biotech that any difference between them is hardly important.

  38. steve says:

    That’s simply because the low-hanging fruit has been picked and the targets are harder now.

  39. Anonymous says:

    @38: Bingo, precisely, which gets us back to my original point that the entire business model of drug discovery is becoming economically unviable for everyone. Including biotech.

  40. steve says:

    I still would argue that lumping everything into “R&D productivity” obscures the difference between biotech and pharma. Antibodies have a much better batting average than small molecules, new modalities like CAR-T can’t be compared to oral drugs, etc. Also, your stats don’t include all the ideas and drugs that are killed at early stage in pharma because the market isn’t big enough or it doesn’t fit into some marketing plan. Those drugs all would be very developable by biotech. So these kinds of blanket comparisons are really fruitless.

  41. Anonymous says:

    Even if biotech is twice as productive as pharma, overall productivity has been declining by 50% every 9 years, so biotech would last only 9 years longer than pharma.

  42. steve says:

    I still question these broad measures of things like “productivity” with no definition, no stats and no sense of what they comprise.

  43. Anonymous says:

    R&D Productivity = NMEs per $Bn, or better still, Return on Investment, since that’s what drives revenue growth so that revenues can be reinvested back into R&D. Both of these measures of productivity are declining to the point of negative returns and hence negative revenue growth.

  44. Anonymous says:

    … Which is why pharma is turning into a frenzy of M&A, job cuts and asset stripping, as a means for investors to liquidate their investments and withdraw from the industry while it enters terminal decline.

  45. steve says:

    But again, that definition obscures a lot that’s under the hood, as I said. How many NME’s don’t get nominated by big pharma for clinical trials not because of R&D failure but because of business decisions related to market size, fit with current priorities, shifts in management criteria, etc., etc. And I have no idea how you figure out that for biotech which is largely small companies that don’t give out figures on what they’ve spent to get to POC trials, that are funded by shoestring budgets and grants, etc. Or are you just comparing large biotechs like Amgen and Genentech to large pharma like GSK and Pfizer? Your brush is too broad and the analysis too sparse to draw much in the way of conclusions from it.

  46. Anonymous says:

    Don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees. Total VC funding in biotech has also been increasing exponentially along with Pharma R&D spend, while overall NME output has remained flat, and the average value of NMEs is becoming more and more incremental. But the botom line is that growth in overall drug sales has gradually slowed down to a virtual halt, and so the industry will soon enter negative growth and decline.

  47. steve says:

    I would argue that the reason large pharma is failing is that the management has too many MBA types pursuing flawed commercialization models intrude on the science, something you don’t find in small biotech.
    Look at a recent analysis of AZ (http://www.nature.com/nrd/journal/v13/n6/full/nrd4309.html).
    “Surprisingly, for a number of projects (9 out of 28) it was indicated that their development plans had not targeted the
    optimal patient population based on the scientific understanding of the disease at the time.”
    “Early in development, project teams demonstrated greater confidence that they were studying the most appropriate
    indication and patient population for their target, whereas commercial confidence was low.
    Conversely, in later phases there was high commercial confidence in the projects but low confidence that the projects were in the indication and patient population for which the scientific rationale was strongest. This suggests that some teams were driven by commercial value in addition to studying the most appropriate patient population based on the scientific understanding of the
    disease at the time.”

  48. Anonymous says:

    I would agree that might be one of the things that could make pharma slightly less productive than biotech, but again you’re missing the point that continually picking the low hanging fruit means that R&D productivity (as return on investment) for BOTH pharma and biotech will keep declining, until you get less out than you put in, at which point the entire business model fails and investors take their money out and run. I think we have reached that point.

  49. Sisyphus says:

    They will all be Pfizered soon!

  50. steve says:

    You could have said that about the computers before the internet, the phone industry until the iPhone, the butt before Kim Kardashian, or any other failing paradigm before a disruptive innovation. My argument is that the new innovation to transform pharma will come from a robust biotech industry and not large pharma. Let them do the marketing and let biotech do the innovation.

  51. Anonymous says:

    I agree, a disruptive new approach to drug discovery is the *only* thing that will save the industry, and it won’t come from Pharma. In fact it may not come from biotech either, but from an individual, as I have been working on just such an idea myself. Now to get some funding for it … 🙂

  52. tt says:

    #50 #51 Disruption coming from small companies is really a myth. Most seem to come internally from large companies who then oftentimes fail to capitalize on their own tech. There’s a really good article on this mythos in the New Yorker http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/06/23/the-disruption-machine
    I’ve also seen many of those ROI on R&D trend graphs and every time I see it I think of all the silly past examples of people extrapolating and assuming the future trends will hold (Malthus anyone?)

  53. steve says:

    Seems to me that Google was a small company when it disrupted search, Genentech was a small company when it disrupted pharma, Uber was a small company when it disrupted transportation, Facebook was a small company when it disrupted social intercourse, etc., etc. Just because these and other companies are large now doesn’t take away from their being small upstarts with disruptive ideas that they made into reality.

  54. Carsten says:

    The pharma company of the not to distant future will consist of a very small management apparatus (with no scientists being part of it), and everything interesting (I.e. That has shown activity in mouse and promising ADMET properties) will be licensed in.
    No risk but all the fun….

  55. pete says:

    @53
    Easy on the “DISRUPTED”, laddie,’cause it reads too much like revisionist history, Silicon Valley style.
    Genentech & others weren’t trying to DISRUPT what pharma was doing with small molecules. It was more, “let’s use biologicals to take a diffent, possibly more sophisticated path toward affecting disease”.
    That’s different than horning in on taxi fares with on-call rides a la Uber.
    Just sayin’.

  56. Anonymous says:

    @52: Diminishing productivity is not just an extrapolation. It follows the law of diminishing returns because that’s just how we prioritize opportunities – by pursuing those which give us the greatest return first. Or would you rather start with those that give less out with more cost, ime and effort going in?

  57. Nocebo says:

    #16 PharmaForward, can we attribute GSK’s woeful IT support to “externalization”? For anyone who wants anything more that a standard (and out-dated) Microsoft Desktop, it is worse than useless. Just one example of the impediments scientists face in their daily work!

  58. Bagnar says:

    Right, I read above me a lot of critics against the way how big pharma are driven. Most of you are / were scientists in research group, if I’m correct.
    So tell me, quickly, what could be a good management in big pharma ? What will you do if you were on Andrew Witty’s seat ?
    I’m curious to know if there is something consistent behind all your criticisms and not only something like “Give more money to research”.

  59. DrSnowboard says:

    @58 or previously research scientists in research groups… And so not the best people to ask about financial management, which is what Witty is forced to be. That would be like asking an accountant or marketing exec to pronounce on the best way to do research…Oh.
    Witty’s response, if he feels he needs to, will be to change something. Increasing research isn’t going to pay off in a timeframe that will suit ““He’s either got to deliver in the next 12 months or step aside.” – which is code for “push the share price up so we can cash out and move the money somewhere else without looking like huge fools to take a stonking loss..” So he will slash costs, if he can, buy somebody or something sexy, if he can, or merge and burn everyone’s boats. I actually think he’s doing a reasonable job of steering GSK ‘safely’ out of choppy waters, and no I’m not paid by anyone to say that.

  60. steve says:

    My argument is that the MBAs have transformed pharma companies from scientist-driven organizations to marketing behemoths. So let’s complete the process. Biotech is starving for cash, particularly in the valley of death stage; have pharma go out and fund early stage biotech in exchange for right of first negotiation after clinical POC. This basically is the Android vs Apple model – rather than have everything centralized to the organization like Apple spread the risk around like Android and let lots of companies compete to see who has the best ideas. Pharma can license them and then do what it does best – large scale clinical trials and sales/marketing.

  61. steve says:

    By the way, for my idea to work, the people deciding which biotechs to fund need to be scientists, not marketing people. And the idea is to fund early stage companies, not wait until after Ph2 like they do now.

  62. tt says:

    Disruption is a misunderstood term. One could argue that Facebook, Google, Genentech etc are more evolutionary or improvements of previous attempts like Friendster, alta vista, and in the case of Genentech, there was a lot of effort and knowledge already being conducted at big Pharma in biologics, but they didn’t take advantage of their own internal efforts.
    Just saying that big Pharma R&D will certainly contract in size, but it wouldn’t shock me if “the next big thing” is an off shoot from scientists there. in aggregate the entire industry will without a doubt shrink with some big Pharma surviving through a smart blend of cutting edge internal and external research and others (Pfizer) just gobbling up the leftovers of the other dinosaurs (GSK). Just don’t place too much faith in extrapolation of ROI based on the current landscape.

  63. steve says:

    I don’t think the origin of the idea is what’s disruptive, it’s the execution. Friendster wasn’t disruptive, Facebook was.
    Your example of “lots of effort and knowledge already being conducted at big Pharma in biologics but they didn’t take advantage of their internal efforts” is exactly what I’m trying to address.
    For example, look at Xerox PARC, where Steve Jobs basically stole a lot of the elements that went into the first Apple computer. Xerox had the ideas but it was Jobs and Apple that was disruptive.
    Your statement is the perfect example of what I’m saying about how innovation is crushed in big pharma. There is also a “not invented here” attitude that should be replaced with a distributed model in which the risk is born by large numbers of biotech companies.
    Funding them at an early stage is cheaper for pharma than waiting for the companies to get through Ph2 or Ph3 themselves. They would greatly amplify their effective research base by not squashing innovation and instead fostering it with 100 different companies with different ideas, approaches and execution strategies.

  64. anon the II says:

    At #63 Steve,
    You kinda blew it on the Apple history. The PARC visit was about the Lisa and the Mac, 5 or 6 years after the first Apple computer. But I get the point.

  65. Anonymous says:

    @58: Indeed, more money for research won’t improve productivity since the issue is about getting more by putting in less, not more.
    So if I was Witty:
    1. Stop investing so much in the old R&D model (target-based discovery) because returns continue to fall
    2. Stop buying or licensing drugs discovered by the old R&D model, because the same issue applies, and in any case you get what you pay for, and vice versa, so there’s no net value creation.
    3. Stop M&A for the same reason (zero sum asset swapping with no net value creation)
    4. Stop cost cutting unless and except where you’re sure it will improve productivity (i.e., without simply reducing output pro rata)
    5. Invest more into radical new, systems-based approaches to drug discovery that *don’t* depend on our limited and often misguided knowledge and understanding of human disease and biology
    6. Foster a culture of “think big and different, aim high, fail fast, cheap and often”.
    7. Get rid of the people that block that way of thinking.

  66. steve says:

    @64 – Not really; the disruptive change wasn’t the Lisa, it was the GUI, mouse, etc. that had it’s debut in the Lisa but became truly disruptive with the Mac. Mac wasn’t the first PC but it was the disruptive one. Even when the Lisa came out Xerox still didn’t realize what it had; it took a small entrepreneurial company to bring a disruptive invention to market, which is the point of what I’m trying to say. Anyone who lived in Massachusetts during the fall of the big mainframe companies like Wang when PCs took over the market will know where I’m coming from.
    The lessons learned about the early Mac should be applied to pharma. Mac had the disruptive innovation but Windows PCs took over the market because lots of companies all over the world could compete, as opposed to the single company that made Macs. Apple lost market share by not distributing the risk, which is the model I’m proposing by letting big pharma fund lots of early stage biotech instead of trying to do drug discovery itself.

  67. steve says:

    By the way, if any big pharma execs are listening I work with a number of early-stage startup biotechs that would be happy to consider your funding proposals. 😉

  68. Big Pharma CEO says:

    #67 – We hear you, but too busy fudging balance sheets, giving rosey forecasts to investors and trying to maintain the status quo to waste time on stuff that might actually create value and solve all our problems. Sorry, maybe my successor can help you.

  69. Bagnar says:

    #65 Ohoooo ! Thanks a lot for your answer. I copy/past it and will think about it these days.
    Quick question. What “M&A” means please ?
    Your strategy looks nice, at the first view, but is highly risky isn’t it ? Return on investment is impossible to promess !

  70. Anonymous says:

    @69: To answer your questions –
    1. M&A = Merger & Acquisition
    2. Essentially, yes, like everything that’s new, there is uncertainty and thus risk, however …
    a) Risk can always be mitigated by investing in a portfolio of ideas, so that winners are likely to make up for all the losers
    b) Nothing is as risky as the current situation, where value destruction is virtually guaranteed.

  71. Minion Dave - GRU labs says:

    Lots of great comments on here. A few that hit (too) close to home:
    1. “This suggests that some teams were driven by commercial value in addition to studying the most appropriate patient population based on the scientific understanding of the disease at the time.” I have seen as many projects killed by flawed commercial analysis as by good old fashioned scientific failure. This may sound pollyanna-ish, but good science will find its niche, even if that means the next Viagra as opposed to a cure for cancer.
    2. Foster a culture of “think big and different, aim high, fail fast, cheap and often”. Far too much of drug discovery in big pharma is tied to achieving x number of GLP-tox starts (or some other goal), so compounds that never have a chance in the clinic are brought along so people look good on their performance reviews. This is easier said than done, but kill something when it should be killed; find a way to give something a chance to survive if you believe in its promise.
    3. Since we must listen to MBAs, at least make sure they have PHDs as well. It’s amazing to see what a difference that can make. Most of the bad decisions I have seen are attributable to non-science MBAs (although there are some good non-science MBAs and bad PHD/MBAs).
    4. Re-locate to a town named Cambridge (any country). Just kidding.

  72. anon3 says:

    @16 Welcome back Agilist!!!! I’m so glad she’s back 🙂

  73. tangent says:

    Is “bolt-on acquisitions” supposed to sound attractive, and, I don’t know, mechanical-engineery? Because “bolt-on acquisitions” sound bad to me.

  74. Anonymous says:

    Bolt-on acquisitions means that they will buy productive companies at a high price and then strip down their assets without bothering to integrate or improve their own failed R&D / business model.

  75. steve says:

    And here I thought it meant they hired Michael Bolton 😉

  76. Anonymous says:

    @75: At least hiring Michael Bolton would have had a better chance of doing something useful. 🙂

  77. Ivor Biggin says:

    I envy Steve having so much time to post on blogs. Small biotechs must be really innovative if this is what the folks there do all day. See ya when we buy ya… for while, anyway.
    Here in the rump of big pharma R&D we’re all too busy toiling away on the next blockbuster to say so much, except that you’ve all misunderstood the finely crafted satirical black comedy that is PharmaForward.

  78. Anonymous says:

    “Here in the rump of big pharma R&D we’re all too busy toiling away…”
    Toiling or trolling?

  79. steve says:

    Ivor – no need to be a jerk; I do most of my work on the computer and like to check the blogs when I take a break. Trust me, I work every bit as hard as you do. Enjoy the rump.

  80. Emjeff says:

    I believe #16, formerly known as Agilist, is Jen Baxter, noted Vallance sycophant and spreadsheet jockey. In between posts, she’s working on the 87th version of the GSK R&D priority list, with categories of important, super- important, double-secret important, etc. Nice work if you can get it…

  81. Anon says:

    I agree with 54. They want a mixture of managers and hotshot PhD ‘new blood’ scientists (ie future managers), and this is being accomplished by gradual elimination of the plebs by the stack ranking system. People with a low rank are blatantly ostracized by peers and managers alike.

  82. @Emjeff says:

    You sure? I was kinda thinking agilist was a chemist with a dry sense of humor and some very clever writing skills…That or a woman who wasn’t a chemist. So perhaps one of my guesses was right. Do you have any other writing samples?

  83. exGlaxoid says:

    The problem is that now GSK has lost/laid off virtually all of the good R & D scientists that they once had. Even if they could get rid of Witty and his lackeys, it would take years to rebuild the R & D group, since nearly everyone who had curiosity, integrity, or ability has been let go in order to keep many layers of VPs at the top who do nothing of value. Moncef and the others wasted billions on poor purchases, moving R & D to China, outsourcing and more.
    When I worked at Glaxo and GW, there were many great scientists who were allowed to create and run projects based on science. That process was killed by layers of management and bureaucracy and allowing commercial guesses to drive decisions, such as selling the compound that became Cialis, since it was “not worth anything”.
    So I think GSK will wither up and shrink until bought by Pfizer, AZ, Merck, or some other company in another desperate attempt to stay alive. Merck used to be the best scientific group I had ever known, but it also has been driven into the ground by poor management as well. Same for Pfizer and many others. I still see some signs of sense at Roche and Novartis, perhaps due to longer term thinking, but not sure.

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