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Celebrating the Companies Bringing Innovations to Market

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The Productive Innovation Index started with (as usual at IDEA) a small question – are pharmaceutical companies more different than they are similar? The industry is often described as if it were monolithic, with critics and fans all presenting problems or prescribing solutions that they believe will affect every company equally. We went on to ask the necessary next question: if two companies had the same asset at the early stages of development, would one make more of it than the other? The answer, to everyone, was ‘of course.’ As Matt Ridley says in The Evolution Of Everything, “Given that every football match starts with the same number of players, roughly the same size of pitch, the same sort of ball and the same rules, is it not astounding that every game is unique?” And so we found, as soon as we started looking at the scores – excellence in developing and launching innovative medicines is not equally shared among the major pharma companies. Some, it seems, are systematically excellent.

We have always held firmly to the difference between innovation and invention: when you launch great medicines, you are an innovator, not just an inventor. And when we ran the numbers that first year, we were surprised to see that Johnson & Johnson and its Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies had, over the previous 5 years, been the best in the industry at launching great medicines. The surprise was that it had been achieved so quietly. We have repeated the exercise annually for 6 years now, and it is clear that first success was no accident. As Aristotle said “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” The new, 2016 Index sees Johnson & Johnson at the top for the 4th year running (having led the index in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016), which shows that this success has quickly become a habit.

From all the millions of ideas, all the thousands of molecules, all the unmet medical needs, the industry only launches 40 or so new medicines per year globally. Those that make it to market are the result of thousands of interactions between some of the smartest, most educated people of any industry, all working in the same direction. And those that make it to market will go on to change the lives of millions of people. As the leader of a path-to-market design practice, my admiration is reserved for those who want to continuously improve, as it is clear that there is a lot yet to do. So, what was rewarding in that first year was that, of all the companies ranked for their ability to launch great medicines, the only one that wanted to know what we thought they could do to improve was the company ranked first. That humility in the face of the challenge has remained a notable trait whenever we have looked at Johnson & Johnson.

We are often asked what makes the difference, what distinguishes a company that does well in the Productive Innovation Index from one that does less well, in the hope that there is an algorithm, a philosophy, a technique that could be deployed. My observation is that there is no one thing. Instead there are people – people who join pharma wanting to make a difference, and companies that let them make a difference. Launching medicines is not easy, and perhaps not coincidentally is one of the most rewarding things any of us will ever do. That J&J is consistently leading our industry’s innovation must say something about its people, about the collective team that launches great medicines where other companies’ teams don’t. That is its own reward. First place on the Productive Innovation Index may be recognition, but we are only holding up a mirror to what the teams of Johnson & Johnson have accomplished in the past 5 years, to people who launched medicines that no other company could have.

Mike Rea, CEO of IDEA Pharma, has worked in global pharma for 25 years, and is a recognized industry leader, named as The Change Maker in the PharmaVoice 100 Most Inspiring Individuals in Healthcare in 2011, 2013 and 2015, and one of the Top 10 Innovators in Pharma by PharmaPhorum.

Since founding path-to-market design practice IDEA Pharma, Mike has led strategy for over 100 pharmaceutical brands, including over half of the 50 fastest growing brands in the 2005-2010 period, as well as 3 in 10 of the products named as ‘blockbuster launches’ by Reuters in 2015. With practices across San Francisco, New York, Basel and the UK, Mike continues to work directly with clients (including previous engagements with Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson) on path-to-market design.

Mike has chaired several international pharma conferences, and is regarded as an industry expert (and a provocative voice) on pharmaceutical positioning, innovation, portfolio strategy and lifecycle management.

Outside work, Mike owns an independent record label, enjoys track driving, listens to too much music and plays guitar badly.

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