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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 12184

Warning: This library includes all items relevant to health product marketing that we are aware of regardless of quality. Often we do not agree with all or part of the contents.


Publication type: news

Goldstein J.
Glaxo Research Chief: ‘Science is Overridden by Managers’
The Wall Street Journal Health Blog 2007 Dec 12

Full text:

Moncef Slaoui, head of R&D at GlaxoSmithKline, has a beef with the culture of his own research shop. “The science is overridden by managers,” he tells the FT. “We should move away from industrialised R&D.”

Those are some refreshingly direct words from such a powerful industry figure. And they’re a clear sign that Glaxo’s much-ballyhooed R&D reorg of a few years back didn’t turn the company’s research engine into the set of little entrepreneurial workshops the company dreamed of. “We’ve done well on the structure but more is required on behavior,” said Slaoui, a molecular biologist who came up through the ranks of Glaxo’s vaccines unit.

He expects the company to more aggressively search for outside its own labs for more promising compounds – in a few years, half of Glaxo’s drugs in development could come from outside, compared with 10% today.

Internally, a bureaucratic mindset leads to unnecessary steps in the research process. “In every single project we look at we could have reached the critical decision with . . . 50% to 60% fewer experiments,” he said in a separate FT story. “[W]e just can’t afford it.”

And he’s no fan of the notion that it’s always better to have more “shots-on-goal” by generating lots of candidate molecules. “That is at the heart of decreased productivity,” he said.

He wants to move scientists around less, so they develop a deep “educated intuition” in a given specialty. And he wants to keep groups small enough that researchers “have ownership . . . and have nowhere to hide.”


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What these howls of outrage and hurt amount to is that the medical profession is distressed to find its high opinion of itself not shared by writers of [prescription] drug advertising. It would be a great step forward if doctors stopped bemoaning this attack on their professional maturity and began recognizing how thoroughly justified it is.
- Pierre R. Garai (advertising executive) 1963