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Restructuring Roche's R&D: An Interview with Lee Babiss

Executive Summary

Even though Roche has been the single most successful investment in Big Pharma--because Roche has been the single most successful investor in Big Pharma--productivity over the past few years was slowed by leadership bottlenecks, misalignment among functions, and roadblocks to creativity. Roche's brand-new research boss, Lee Babiss, says a new decentralized structure and a more aggressive out-partnering strategy is designed to address the issues, manage risk, and spur post-2015 growth

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Roche's rationale for buying Genentech must out-argue the one big reason not to do the deal: theirs has been the most successful relationship in pharmaceutical history. Instead, Roche is betting that this unique relationship has already borne its best fruit. In an emerging world of payor constraints, biological me-toos and growing oncology marketing expenses, the costs of keeping Genentech independent -- manufacturing transfer prices, up-front fees and royalties, and most importantly, no ability to leverage its investment in the US marketplace -- are simply too high. Moreover, Roche is clearly not convinced that Genentech's productivity would have continued at the rates it has in the last decade. Roche's vision of the pharma future looks a lot more like the cost-constrained world CEO Schwan knew at Roche Diagnostics - where innovation was rare and rarely paid for; where extraordinary business acumen counted for more than outsized research capabilities.

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