Big vs. Small

Large and small bio/pharmaceutical companies are typically characterized as polar opposites, Table 1.  The large companies are characterized as sluggish behemoths and the small companies as agile but unstable.  Medium size may be better in many respects, but are presently considered to be unable to survive late stage failures of important development projects or overly exposed to patent expiration of key products.

Big vs small

Table 1, Typical Impressions of Company Size versus Capabilities and Goals

The large pharma are experimenting with being “big and small at the same time”. 1  This quote was from Tachi Yamada, who was then head of GSK R&D and managed the reorganization of corporate R&D into Centers of Excellence in Drug Discovery (CEDDs), each staffed by roughly 350 researchers.  GSK has taken the concept a step further by splitting the CEDDs into Discovery Performance Units (DPUs) of 30-40 researchers, to get closer to the agility of a small start-up. 2

  1. Tachi Yamada, as head of GSK R&D, Apr. 1, 2004,  http//
  2. “The Future of Pharma: GSK’s research leaders answer Nature’s questions about where their company — and their industry — is headed”, Nature News online, Oct. 9, 2008.