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Survey: Biopharmaceutical industry needs innovation

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A new Economist Intelligence Unit survey sponsored by CRO Quintiles highlights the urgent need for biopharmaceutical industry innovation. The global survey comes as the biopharma sector reaches the patent cliff—this year and next, seven of the world’s 15 top-selling drugs, accounting for nearly $50 billion in sales in 2009, will go off-patent.

To investigate corporate strategies in this challenging environment, senior executives in the life sciences industry were surveyed. The findings show innovation is key to bringing new, more effective products to market to treat diseases.

The survey also indicated executives were ambivalent about the quality of their existing innovation programs—less than half said their R&D model was capable of meeting their company’s needs, and only about half said changing their innovation processes was a leading priority.

“The findings highlight the urgent need for data-driven innovation as companies work to navigate the challenges of the New Health,” said Paula Brown Stafford, president of Quintiles Clinical Development. “The best innovations will come from firms who look creatively at new technologies to turn their data and information into insight, pursue open partnerships to gain additional expertise and make better decisions faster.”

Titled The innovation imperative in biopharma, the report showed that:

  • Only 47% of executives said their company’s R&D model was capable of meeting their company’s needs; 49% rated their company’s overall innovation strategy as just moderately effective at best.
  • Only about half are making change to innovation processes a leading priority. Although almost every company is trying something to improve innovation, only 54% overall—including those who admit to having poor or ineffective innovation strategies—consider it a leading priority.
  • Culture is the primary barrier to improved innovation among the most laggard firms.Leading impediments to innovation cited by respondents are costs (especially for smaller companies), R&D timescales and regulation. Among those companies with the worst innovation record, cultural attachment to existing practices is cited as their leading problem.
  • Leading life sciences innovators create the right culture, are more engaged in open innovation and make better use of data. The one in five companies surveyed who call their innovation programs “very effective” typically produce about twice as many new products as others. They also act differently in several ways. One is that they work hard to create the right environment, finding appropriate ways to reward efforts without penalizing failure. A second is that they are more engaged in open innovation, with a more flexible perspective on intellectual property (IP): 63% of leading innovators say they are successfully using open innovation, nearly twice the overall average. A third is that they make greater use of data, both internally and externally, to support their efforts (67%).

The survey concluded that for companies in the life sciences industry, improving innovation is essential. They must reinvent how they innovate. But high costs, complex regulations and long development time scales conspire to make this difficult. For those ready to improve, though, the habits of the most successful innovators provide important lessons:

  • Rethink your innovation environment: Finding the right culture to motivate people is crucial. Companies need to be sure that working conditions and reward structures truly encourage individuals to take the risks and put in the effort to innovate.
  • Pursue more open partnerships: Leading companies are shifting toward more open innovation. Although intellectual property will always remain important, an excessive focus on this can hurt a company by impeding helpful innovation.
  • Exploit your IP fully: Too many companies lack the processes to derive full benefit from their own research. Return on investment can be improved by making greater use of discoveries that need not be restricted to the life sciences.
  • Explore opportunities to make better use of your data: The data tools available to assist R&D are improving rapidly. In such a situation, it takes focused effort to review and reshape processes to integrate the new technology most effectively.

A total of 282 senior executivesfrom the life sciences industry participated in the survey, including respondents from pharmaceutical companies (39%), biotech (21%), medical device manufacturers (22%) and service providers (14%); 58% of respondents represent the C-suite or above. Geographically, 32% are based in the Asia-Pacific region, 31% in North America and 26% in Western Europe. For company size, 43% represented companies with more than $1 billion in annual revenue; 24% work for companies with more than $5 billion in revenue.


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