Roger Perlmutter: “Eschew distraction”

01/03/2012 § Leave a comment

Roger Perlmutter

Roger Perlmutter

Dr Perlmutter, the outgoing head of Amgen R&D, shared his thoughts in this recent Xconomy article. The whole article is interesting if you’ve been in the biotech space, but I really liked his four main points that he made early in the interview. The first one in particular is, as I mentioned in my previous post, so tricky – being able to focus means being able to say no.

I’ve copied parts of his words here (emphasis mine).

“I set out four guiding principles from the start, and for 11 years we recounted it as a daily catechism. The first was that we were going to focus on grievous illness. We want to treat people who are very sick and make them somewhat better. …What it means is you don’t focus attention on things that are not grievous. You eschew distraction, which is very important. In the traditional pharmaceutical industry, you can spend a lot of time trying to improve your product’s image. You can change things from being given twice a day, and into a once-a-day drug.

“Second, I thought we needed to be modality independent…If I’m proud of anything in my 11 years, it’s that—creating an organization that’s comfortable with fitting the tool to the task. You start by asking, what are we trying to achieve with this drug? It could be a protein, a peptide, an antibody, a small molecule. I don’t care what the tool is you use, I want to focus attention on the task…

“The third principle was to do the experiment in patients, recognizing that preclinical models have poor predictive value for disease. You can invest a lot of time in them, but we are trying to treat human beings in this business, and we owe it to people to test them in the human setting. You have to build the tools necessary to test in humans, and ask things like whether your drug hits the target you intend, and then measure the outcome.

“The last one is what we call seamless integration. I wanted us to have the insights that came from the marketplace brought to our research, and vice versa. …I wanted marketing people in our meetings. Not to tell us what to do, but so they understand what we were trying to do, and so we in R&D understood the insights they had from the marketplace. That was what we were trying to do.”

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