BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON - The new giant of the pharmaceutical world, GlaxoSmithKline plc (GSK), is taking on the business model of the biotechnology industry in a bid to put entrepreneurial flair into its £2.5 billion R&D operations. It will create six "internal biotechnology companies" that will operate autonomously and compete for internal resources.

Tachi Yamada, head of the R&D organization, outlined the proposed reorganization in London last week, when GSK unveiled its strategy for growing the company, formed from the merger of Glaxo Wellcome plc and SmithKline Beecham plc. Yamada said that using the biotechnology company model would allow GSK to "take advantage of scale, while promoting focus and entrepreneurialism."

There will be biotech-style financial inducements, including share options, to attract talent and foster the entrepreneurial culture.

The six internal units, or Centres of Excellence for Drug Discovery (CEDD), will be divided along therapeutic lines, with two units based in the UK, one in Italy and three in the U.S. They will be responsible for discovery and clinical development up to Phase II proof of principle. Compounds will then be handed over to a central unit for Phase III and registration.

"The new structure will maintain the momentum to deliver the existing pipeline, capture the advantages of scale and promote agility and entrepreneurial spirit," Yamada said. "At the same time it will create an environment to stimulate the best and the brightest scientists and provide the flexibility to accommodate future change."

The CEDDs will be free to in-license, and will have access to central resources for high-throughput gene sequencing, chemistry and screening. CEO Jean-Pierre Garnier said, "We are determined to enhance R&D productivity, build a rich pipeline and reduce our costs."