Xconomist of the Week: John Reed on Sanford-Burnham’s Drug Pipeline

8/3/12Follow @bvbigelow

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Johnson & Johnson’s discovery operation in the United States for a number of years. He had about 700 people reporting to him and put almost 60 NMEs [new molecular entities] in their pipeline.

We decided to build a highly collaborative model where we built teams around projects that would have biologists and chemists, structural biologists, bioinformaticists, and engineers. So we’d get these big multi-disciplinary teams focused around projects. So it was really team-based science, collaborative science. And we did a lot of things culturally to make collaboration sort of the mantra of the organization, from our mission statement on down.

It really did and does work. The citation impact is one indicator that it does work. It’s not because our scientists are any smarter than anybody else’s. I often point out that we’ve only had one National Academy of Sciences member out of our 89 faculty members. In fact, I’m a little miffed because of the politics around it. So it’s not like I’ve got 50 National Academy members to explain why we’re No. 1 in citation impact in the world. It’s because we work well as a team.

We also have been the only organization to have rising NIH grant revenues at a time when budgets were flat or declining. We’ve had eight consecutive years of double digit growth in our NIH grant base. We’ve become the third most-highly funded of the laboratory-based nonprofit research institutes in the country, we do about $90 million in NIH grants and $110 million overall. We weren’t even in the top 10 when we started.

It’s unusual for an organization of this size to have nine products in clinical development. We have a pipeline of 16 small molecule drug development projects that are moving toward the clinic. And we have at least 15 protein drug projects that are through initial animal model “proof of concept” testing and undergoing further optimization. So the pipeline we’ve created of additional therapeutic opportunities, just in the last decade, sort of speaks for itself.

X: So how does that handoff occur, as you move from R&D to commercialization?

JR: We’ve had several models, they include pharma partnering, which can be either a project at a time and they’ll come in and license it. Or we may collaborate for a couple of years before … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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