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The case for entrepreneurship in R&D in the pharmaceutical industry


A lack of entrepreneurial behaviour has often been highlighted as a contributor to the decline in the research and development (R&D) productivity of the pharmaceutical industry. Here, we present an assessment of entrepreneurship in the industry, based on interviews with 26 former and current leaders of R&D departments at major pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. Factors are highlighted that could be important in promoting entrepreneurial behaviour, which might serve as a catalyst for revitalizing R&D productivity.

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Figure 1: Evolution of discovery models to identify the 'right drug for the right patient'.


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With special thanks to D. Kaiser, M. Tribbitt and T. Flores for their research and editorial assistance. We would also like to thank the following colleagues who participated in these interviews: B. Adelman, R. Armstrong, L. Babiss, J. Boger, A. Busch, P. Corr, M. Fishman, T. Glenn, C. Goodman, B. Kirschbaum, J. Leiden, G. Milne, P. Needleman, G. Neil, J. Patterson, S. Paul, J. Reinhardt, P. Ringrose, D. Rosen, L. Rosenberg, R. Ruffolo, V. Sato, B. Shapiro, A. Smith, G. Watanabe and T. Yamada (see Box 1).

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Correspondence to Frank L. Douglas.

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The authors do not believe that any of them have competing financial interests as defined in the Nature journals' competing financial interest policy. However, in the interest of full disclosure, the authors state that Lesa Mitchell and Robert E. Litan are employees of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation which is specifically engaged in research into and the proliferation of concepts relating to entrepreneurship generally. Frank L. Douglas is, among other pursuits, a Senior Fellow of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and V. K. Narayanan is, among other pursuits, an indirect recipient of grant monies given by the Foundation to Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.

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Douglas, F., Narayanan, V., Mitchell, L. et al. The case for entrepreneurship in R&D in the pharmaceutical industry. Nat Rev Drug Discov 9, 683–689 (2010).

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