Innovation and partnering

Our CEO, John Lechleiter, speaks often about the need to enhance biopharmaceutical innovation. One particular pathway, he says, is for our industry to embrace more efficient and more effective processes. That includes partnering.

This morning, Lilly walked the walk. Lilly and Boehringer Ingelheim -- a German-based company -- have agreed to jointly develop and commercialize several pipeline compounds that are being studied for the treatment of diabetes. The agreement underscores Lilly's commitment to finding solutions for diabetes, including different treatment options for different patient needs.

So, why is partnering an important part of the mix?

It falls under the broader category of "the reinvention of invention." In short, companies like Lilly must find innovative ways to research new treatments, and one approach is through partnering. As John told the World Health Forum last fall, "Ironically, the crisis in our innovation model comes at a time when we have vastly more scientific knowledge and data than ever before. But unless we change the way we do research, we won't translate this knowledge into advances for patients."

For instance, Lilly already uses a virtual network that allows a small group of our scientists to design, interpret, and oversee early-stage development through a network of organizations outside the company's own walls. Because the model is leaner than most programs, it's more efficient than traditional industry models.

The agreement with Boehringer Ingelheim, meanwhile, is a meeting of the minds that will focus on late-state possibilities - with scientists from both companies working to bring a series of potential treatments to patients.

Here's the hard truth: Medical innovation is not only difficult, but expensive (Lilly alone spent more than $4 billion on research and development in 2009). And of every 10,000 molecules discovered, 1 is typically approved for patient treatment. Anything we can do to improve those odds is good for patients, and good for innovation. Lilly's agreement with BI could be a step in that direction.