The Virtual Pipeline

Today, for the big bio/pharmaceutical companies, the R&D pipeline is a virtual pipeline in which the trajectory of work still starts in Target Discovery and proceeds through to Approval and Launch but that thread of work winds its way through a number of companies. This is depicted in Figure 1 below in a portfolio of five targets the drugs of which are ultimately marketed by Company 1.  In this scenario, Company 1 took only one target through Discovery to a clinical candidate that it took all the way through development to Approval and Launch.  The rest of its portfolio came from one or more companies through mergers, acquisitions or in-licensings.  With Target E, Company 1 partnered with another company to gain approval and launch in order to co-market the drug from Target E.

In a virtual pipeline, the project team becomes a virtual project team or more accurately a series of project teams that never interact with each other.  Some companies are focused on virtual discovery and development (VD&D) in which the project manager orchestrates the work of a set of CROs that perform the actual work.  (See Maximal Outsourcing – Virtual Discovery and Development).


Virtual Pipeline

Figure 1.  An example of a portfolio of five targets that are taken through to Approval and Launch by Company 1.   In this example only Target A was worked on in Company 1 through all the stages of R&D.  The other four targets were brought through Discovery and most or all of the stages of Development by other companies.  The drug targets and their subsequent drug candidates were transitioned to subsequent companies through out-licensings, mergers, acquisitions and partnerships.

Deloitte and Thomson Reuters recently published a study that showed the origin of late stage projects.  Surprisingly, the percentage of self-originated projects in the late stage pipelines of these companies ranged from zero to 44% – with an average of only 25%! 1  Our example in Figure 2 would contain 20% self originated drugs, well within the range of a real pharmaceutical company.  So the virtual pipeline is far from fiction, more a reality than we would think.

  1. Deloitte and Thomson Reuters, “R&D Value Measurement, Is R&D Earning its Investment?”, 2010.…/UK_LS_RD_ROI.pdf