GlaxoSmithKline: The World's Biggest Biotech Startup?

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon

With a market cap of more than $125 billion, GlaxoSmithKline is not only the U.K.'s largest pharmaceutical company, but it's also one of the largest drugmakers in the world.

On paper, it shares many of the typical characteristics of a big pharma company: attractive dividend, strong free cash flow, and several drugs in its pipeline. However, dig beneath the surface and you'll find a unique research and development structure that looks less like peers Merck and Pfizer and more like a fledgling biotech start-up. The company's scientists work in relatively small, interdisciplinary teams that are divided up into discovery performance units, or DPUs. Each DPU focuses on a single research project and has to reapply for funding every three years.

In the following video, Health Care Bureau Chief Max Macaluso and Bernard Munos -- a big pharma innovation expert and founder of the InnoThink Center for Research in Biomedical Innovation -- discuss GlaxoSmithKline's radical approach to R&D. A transcript follows the video.

Incredible growth stock to watch today
Opportunities to get wealthy from a single investment don't come around often, but they do exist, and our chief technology officer believes he's found one. In this free report, Jeremy Phillips shares the single company that he believes could transform not only your portfolio, but your entire life. To learn the identity of this stock for free and see why Jeremy is putting more than $100,000 of his own money into it, all you have to do is click here now.

Bernard Munos: Then you have the GSK model, which is radically different. GSK can realize that it's difficult to create a hospitable environment to innovation in a big corporate structure. They looked at biotech, and biotech tend to be, on the whole, pretty good at coming up with innovation, so they decided, "We're going to create a biotech-like environment within GSK."

They took the monolith and they broke it up in DPUs, which are small biotech-like units, and they live or die by the innovation that they produce. They were widely dismissed by many people in the industry thinking, "This is a crazy idea. It's never going to work." Well, this year GSK has brought four drugs to market, so clearly something seems to be working for them.

It's going to take more evidence before one can declare victory. We're going to see what's happening next year and the year after that, but let's look at it the other way. You've got companies that used to produce one drug per year that haven't produced anything for almost 10 years, so I don't think it's appropriate to dismiss GSK's achievement. Clearly, what they've been doing seems to have motivated their scientists to come up with those four drugs and the rest of the pipeline.

The article GlaxoSmithKline: The World's Biggest Biotech Startup? originally appeared on

Max Macaluso, Ph.D. and Bernard Munos have no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Copyright © 1995 - 2013 The Motley Fool, LLC. All rights reserved. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read Full Story

Sign up for Finance Report by AOL and get everything from business news to personal finance tips delivered directly to your inbox daily!

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

People are Reading