Expert insight

Constantly Innovating

29 September 2014
  • Andrew Jenner

Pushing the boundaries of innovation is at the core of the pharmaceutical industry. However, it’s also the “business model” for many diseases. Microbes, including bacteria and viruses, are constantly evolving to cloak themselves from being affected by antimicrobial medicines.  Similarly, aggressive cancers are increasingly becoming unresponsive to first line treatments.  In order to stay ahead of the curve, R&D pharmaceutical companies are rethinking the way they innovate.

Medicines discovery is no longer the step-by-step process that it may have been in the past. Historically, pharmaceutical innovation followed an in-house high risk model.  R&D pipelines were reliant on their own company expertise and compound libraries.  This was largely due to how innovation was conducted: a single company would see through a medicine’s journey from experimental compound to approved medicine all under the same roof.  That process was linear, and a hiccup anywhere along would create inevitable downstream delays.

Today’s innovation model is becoming increasingly networked where partnerships are crucial. Through partnerships, companies can segment innovation into discrete phases.  For instance, early stage molecule discover may be done in collaboration with academia.  Testing the safety and efficacy of a promising compound may be coordinated with firms specializing in conducting clinical trials. The goal of today’s networked innovation model is simple, create an innovation ecosystem to provide patients with more lifesaving medicines, faster.

An R&D ecosystem accelerates innovation because research can be coordinated to include numerous experts and stakeholders. There is a vast amount of research and knowledge inherent in any therapeutic area, yet communication between discrete research groups is often minimal and may result in redundant work.  Public institutes, academic research groups, and even competing firms can benefit from one another by coordinating research efforts.  Through such various partnerships, R&D costs are reduced because they are borne by multiple partners, knowledge and know-how is transferred, and medicines innovation is accelerated.  This leads to increasing healthcare providers’ arsenal of innovative medicines to treat more patients in the most effective manner.

In an interview with the IFPMA President, John Lechleiter (below) explains what a sustainable ecosystem looks like for innovation to happen in the field of medicines and vaccines. A must watch!


  • Andrew Jenner