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Use A Roadmap To Manage Your Drug Discovery Technology


Bob McCarthy, PhD, formed Foresight Catalyst LLC to provide services for biotechnology companies seeking to improve technology management and integration into new products/services. His experience in different functions at Roche Diagnostics led him to use roadmaps to strengthen the link between strategy and the new product development process. Send your comments to Bob at [email protected]

A new era in the pharmaceutical industry began in 1993 when SmithKline Beecham and Human Genome Sciences developed an alliance to use genomic technology to find new drug targets. Industry experts soon predicted that new technologies such as combinatorial chemistry and high throughput screening, coupled with a dramatic increase in the number of drug targets from the genomics/proteomics revolution, would take the industry to a new level: from serendipity to a structured scientific process for drug discovery.

Nine years later, the industry is in serious trouble. The new technologies have led to increased R&D spending with no improvement in the launch of new products; competition and investor expectations have increased, pressuring an explosion of pharmaceutical marketing expenses; generic drug manufacturers rapidly erode the sales of off-patent branded drugs; and large buying groups, including state governments, are beginning to use their muscle to develop new strategies and tactics to control runaway prescription costs.

The pharmaceutical/biotech industry must renew its focus on the development and/or application of innovative technologies that increase R&D productivity. Technology pull based on needs more than technology push will be required to meet business goals. One underutilized technology management tool relevant to this need is roadmapping.

The roadmap is a unique tool used to source, manage, and integrate technology into new process or product development. Roadmaps were first developed by Motorola in the 1970s to increase the visibility of technology in the business planning process. The unique features of this tool were the strong, direct linkage of technology to business needs and the simplification of documents (using graphs/figures, etc.) to enable transparent vertical and horizontal communication within the company. Roadmaps contain the following elements: market context, availability of critical technologies, risk assessment, linkage of technology to business needs (i.e., process or product), deliverables, and a timeframe to meet these goals.

The primary benefit of roadmap development is to maximize horizontal and vertical alignment in the organization to address issues where technology is critical to success. Cross-functional roadmapping teams are formed to ensure that all the appropriate “voices” are heard in the process. The output from this team will be a roadmap, a document describing the goals and sequence of actions required to implement the plan. However, the real power does not lie in the roadmap per se, but in the shared understanding and commitment of the participants to execute the plan.

Roadmaps can be applied to many issues in the pharmaceutical/biotechnology industry because of their value to link technology to business/market needs. Roadmaps can be applied to the following issues:

Technology foresight/sourcing. Identify critical features required to address unmet needs; serve as a guide for technology scouts to focus search in a timely manner.

Technology integration. Define linkage to process/product development; define availability in terms of robustness for integration; define timing for integration into process/product development.

Technology management. Identify technology nodes within the organization to minimize duplication of effort; identify new requirements to meet evolving needs; develop plan to address feasibility/timing for technology improvement.

Technology leverage. Identify other processes/products addressed by the technology; if appropriate, define and identify other technologies required to strengthen the position/value of the technology.

The challenges the pharmaceutical/ biotech industry will face in the new millennium are formidable. Roadmapping offers a structured process to address technology management issues in a timely and efficient manner, maximizing the value of technology to meet business needs.


Opposite Strand is a forum for readers to express opinions and ideas about trends and issues in genomics. Submissions should be kept to 550 words and may be submitted to [email protected]

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