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Big Pharma's 'Lean-and-Mean Biotech Attitude'

Jeanne Whalen at the Wall Street Journal examines the restructuring of R&D at GlaxoSmithKline, and other big drug companies, over the past decade. GSK "has carved its research group into dozens of such small units" in an effort to "turn a sluggish, bureaucratic R&D staff into a constellation of specialized teams capable of discovering cutting-edge drugs — much in the way biotech companies do,"she writes. At GSK, smaller, "biotech-esque" groups called discovery performance units — 36 in the US and UK — are "focused on a different disease or technology," according to the WSJ. Similarly, AstraZeneca has broken "its research into smaller groups that it said it would fund based on performance," Whalen reports. GSK's chief executive, Andrew Witty, tells the WSJ that, in his opinion, "there's no contradiction in the sense that you can have hugely successful, entrepreneurial innovation inside a big corporation."

Over at Fierce Biotech, John Carroll says that Whalen's report "found no shortage of anecdotes about GSK's move to break its research unit into small groups in order to develop that lean-and-mean biotech attitude needed to move through the clinic quickly." Derek Lowe at In the Pipeline contemplates whether the "idea didn't go far enough," and says that "it's bound to be a good thing to turn people loose to make more of their own decisions ... but I don't know if it's going to be the revolution that they're hoping for (or the one that they might need)."

The Scan

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Finding Freshwater DNA

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Rise in Payments

Kaiser Health News investigates the rise of payments made by medical device companies to surgeons that could be in violation of anti-kickback laws.

Nature Papers Present Ginkgo Biloba Genome Assembly, Collection of Polygenic Indexes, More

In Nature this week: a nearly complete Ginkgo biloba genome assembly, polygenic indexes for dozens of phenotypes, and more.