Pharma Innovation

A look at the year's leaders in innovation strategy, including the top bio/pharmaceutical companies and award recipients from AAPS, PhRMA, and CPhI.
Dec 02, 2012
Volume 36, Issue 12

"Innovation." This word is at the heart of bio/pharmaceutical development and manufacturing, whether innovators are targeting a new cell line or formulation, a drug delivery target or method, an analytical or packaging approach, or a quality system. As FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said in April of this year at the Boston NEHI conference on "Bridging the Innovation Gap," innovation "is an issue that is important to us all, whether you come from industry, from academia, from clinical practice, or from government." She spoke about the challenges facing R&D and product pipelines, including patent-cliff implications, stating that, "The trend lines for innovative products relative to investments in research and development are not what any of us would like."

As an example, Hamburg pointed to the current "golden age" of biomedical discovery in which the industry has sequenced the human genome to reveal potential drug targets and made gains in high throughput screening and nanotechnology, and yet has not necessarily translated these developments into therapies or cures. Hamburg proposed in her speech that a potential solution to this innovation gap requires a "comprehensive, integrated strategy that engages the full 'eco-system.'"

Such a strategy would include "new and strategic investments in research," and "true collaboration by stakeholders," including "strong leadership from business, academia, and government," she said.

Here, Pharmaceutical Technology looks at some of the collaborative efforts taking place among these stakeholders to continue to advance innovation in drug development and manufacturing. The following pages highlight honors given to graduate students and professors as well as bio/pharmaceutical R&D and manufacturing teams throughout 2012. As we prepare to enter the year 2013, we hope these individuals and their hard work will provide inspiration for further pharma innovation.


Every year, our sister publication Pharmaceutical Executive publishes a report on the top 50 pharmaceutical companies based on global sales of prescription drugs. These companies have managed to stay ahead of the game as the industry faces multiple patent expiries and a changing landscape that includes new outsourcing models, capacity-sharing, and consolidation strategies.

As we look ahead to 2013, Pharmaceutical Technology asked the top companies in this list to talk about their innovation strategies, with a specific focus on drug development and manufacturing. These companies include, in order: Pfizer (New York) with 2011 global prescription sales of $57.7 billion; Novartis (Switzerland) with sales of $54 billion; Merck (New Jersey) with sales of $41.3 billion; and Sanofi (France) with sales of $37 billion. Below are their responses.


Kevin Nepveux, vice-president, Global Technology Services, Pfizer Global Supply

"Innovation is a mindset, not a process that can be turned on and off. Organizational strategists tell us that behaviors eat process for breakfast, yet the tendency to separate 'hard' technical skills from the 'softer' communicative skills that drive global workforce interaction persists. Technical-based organizations continue to place great value on the 'hard' skills. We instead need to better understand how our technologists interact with each other, our businesses and their environmental challenges to inspire the everyday innovations as well as breakthroughs.

"In 2010, Pfizer Global Supply (PGS) reexamined its approach to innovation. We'd designed our tactics to inspire creative thinking, but our follow-up metrics included chasing after projects' monetary value. We began to see the categorization of projects as innovative to meet the fiscal metrics, rather than the unleashing of a mindset to derive truly creative solutions. It was time to reinvigorate our innovation methodologies.

"We conducted a year-long listening tour at our manufacturing locations and with our technical groups. We formed a diagonally hierarchical global team to steer the development of the new approach, with executive team sponsorship and participation, a manufacturing mechanic operator, technologists, and the organizational levels in between—all with equal seats at the strategy table.

"Today, our deliberately small headquarters' innovation office trains innovation coaches around the world. This 200-plus global network has responsibility to build local innovation ecosystems and to adapt innovation tools to local needs and cultures. Rather than being in the business of innovation, innovation is instead employed at the needs of the local business.

"The ideas need to come from everywhere within our global organization, but innovation must be nurtured from the top. Sure, we still need to show the fiscal value of all of this effort. However, we have seen significant payback in a short time by shifting our focus to changing the innovation mindset first, and to allow value to emerge as an outcome of a new way of thinking and behaving. The PGS technologists of tomorrow are not the same mold as the past, and neither is our business."

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