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Know Thy R&D Enemy: The Key to Fighting Attrition

Executive Summary

By and large, drug companies have sharply reduced their emphasis on novel targets and, they assume, pipeline risk. But detailed analysis shows that more important risk-reducers are the molecular approach (biologics targeting novel mechanisms fail less frequently than small molecules targeting precedented mechanisms) therapeutic approach (targeted is less risky than broad), therapeutic area, and stage of development.

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Pharma R&D: Doing the Same Thing That Didn't Work Before

New data from Credit Suisse and Booz & Co. show that drug research is less novel and even more insular than it was in 2000, with lower percentages of novel targets and biologics in its pipeline. Moreover, Big Pharma has generally licensed less than it should. Nor has Big Pharma been particularly aggressive in copying Big Biotech's focus on developing a robust understanding of underlying disease biology-and reaping Big Biotech's higher approval rates. The cure: companies can significantly improve their odds of success through new approaches outside R&D (with payors, for example) and new capabilities in target selection and validation.

Pharma R&D: Doing the Same Thing That Didn't Work Before

New data from Credit Suisse and Booz & Co. show that drug research is less novel and even more insular than it was in 2000, with lower percentages of novel targets and biologics in its pipeline. Moreover, Big Pharma has generally licensed less than it should. Nor has Big Pharma been particularly aggressive in copying Big Biotech's focus on developing a robust understanding of underlying disease biology-and reaping Big Biotech's higher approval rates. The cure: companies can significantly improve their odds of success through new approaches outside R&D (with payors, for example) and new capabilities in target selection and validation.

The Large Molecule Future

In an extraordinary series of deals, Pharma has embraced early-stage large-molecule technology, reflecting both the surging value of biologics and the severity of pipeline anemia. But many observers are skeptical the less experienced Big Pharmas can buy themselves into a brand new business with very different requirements. For start-ups, however, the news is very good--they now have two clear and viable pathways to creating shareholder value: acquisition and alliance.

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