Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Big Pharma R&D Becomes Business Development …or at Least BD Now Runs Research

Lot of changes in business development recently.

In a management tiff, long-time Big Pharma dealmaker Tamar Howson rather unceremoniously left Bristol-Myers Squibb, where she’d been running worldwide business development, ending up at Bristol partner Lexicon Pharmaceuticals. Bayer-Schering, aiming again for top tier status, replaced veteran biz dev boss Chris Seaton with Michael Yeomans, ex-Aventis, via Biovail. A few weeks ago, Victor Hartmann, who in early 2005 had bailed on the top BD job at Novartis to take a flyer running BD at Vertex, left the biotech as unceremoniously as Howson left BMS; the IN VIVO Blog has got only hearsay reports on why, so we’ll leave well enough alone.

Look Out Below!

As far as our limited insight can tell us, none of these changes indicate much beyond the fact that grease coats the rungs of corporate ladders. But now news from Johnson & Johnson does reflect something we’ve long argued but which companies have been very slow to internalize structurally: Big Pharma R&D has become business development.

That’s why we’re so interested in the fact that J&J’s drug business has made its chief licensing honcho Tom Heyman head of discovery for the biggest R&D operation in its newly reorganized three-headed drug business. Heyman will be running discovery and early development for J&J's CNS/Internal Medicine Franchise, which incorporates its La Jolla, Pennsylvania/New Jersey and Belgian research sites.

Now, except for one fact, such a move wouldn’t be unprecedented. GlaxoSmithKline certainly gave its R&D organization a business development message when in 2006 it appointed its BD head, Moncef Slaoui, to run the R&D organization. But Slaoui at least had a research background; he's got a PhD. Heyman isn't a scientist at all: he’s a former patent attorney for Janssen.

Apparently this is just fine with Heyman’s new boss, Paul Stoffels, who most definitely is a scientist and one who understands the value of a business development--and an outsider's--perspective. Stoffels is the former Janssen researcher who turned some stagnating work at his former company, plus some new innovation, into a biotech called Virco. Virco in 2001 merged with fellow Belgian biotech Tibotec, and J&J purchased the combined company a year later, once Stoffels & Co. had proven its value, for some $320 million. Stoffels – following a J&J tradition – joined J&J, which hopes he can do what his predecessors clearly couldn’t.

And apparently one thing he wants to do is to make sure J&J’s discovery has a definite external spin. Heyman's certainly got the background to apply the spin; whether the organization accepts it -- from a non-scientist -- is another question.

No comments: