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Big Molecules and Big Pharma

Executive Summary

"Catch a wave and you're sitting on top of the world." Richard DiMarchi, Eli Lilly & Co.'s group VP, research technologies, recalled Brian Wilson's lyric at Windhover Information Inc.'s 2001 Pharmaceutical Strategic Alliances conference as he pointed to a chart illustrating the exponential growth of genetic information generated over the past five years. "The question here," remarked DiMarchi, "is whether you can surf a Tsunami." Citing recent reports from Accenture and Lehman Brothers warning the drug industry to exercise extreme care in attempting to commercially exploit the fruits of genomics, DiMarchi went on to advise, "I think you're going to need a heckuva lot of wax to surf this wave, but this is where the future is and you need to be a part of it." One way for drug companies to compete in this new environment is to have the flexibility to work in both large molecule and small molecule therapeutics. Lilly has a strong commitment to protein-based drugs, and, in his presentation, DiMarchi discussed the economic/scientific advantages of working in small molecules, as well as the obstacles for companies that choose to do so.

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