Aris’ musings: what makes a pharma innovator?

Rebecca Aris


Rebecca Aris shares the top ten pharma innovators as voted by pharmaphorum’s audience and shares people’s thoughts on what counts as a true innovator in the pharma industry in this day and age.

For this month only I’ll be taking over the Tunnah’s musings slot and sharing with you my thoughts on our recent nominations for top pharma innovators.

Definitions of innovation in pharma differ as we all have a different idea of what true innovation is. Inadequate innovation has been blamed for the downturn the industry has seen with regards to drug development, and yet is drug development the be all and end all to reflect true innovation?

In addition, an article in Nature in 2009 suggested that the new-drug output from pharmaceutical companies since 1950 has ‘essentially been constant, and remains so despite the attempts to increase it.’ Suggesting that, ‘contrary to common perception, the new-drug output is not depressed, but may simply reflect the limitations of the current R&amp,D model.

So are advances in drug developments as poor as people commonly believe? And does a decline in R&amp,D necessarily equate to inadequate innovation? We decided to ask our audience to nominate who they considered to be a top innovator in pharma. We were both surprised and overwhelmed with your positive responses, and more so with the reasons behind your response. It seems you really are seeing innovation throughout all walks of the industry.


“…does a decline in R&amp,D necessarily equate to inadequate innovation?”


Starting this week with Faisal Ahmed, we are featuring each of the top ten innovators. The top ten pharma innovators (in alphabetical order) are (drum roll please):-

• Faisal Ahmed,

• Chas Bountra, University of Oxford

• Alex Butler, The Social Moon

• Lynn Crowe, Sanofi

• Jerry Karabelas, Care Capital

• Mikael Lindblad, Meda

• Rob Muller, Roche

• Mike Rea, IDEA Pharma

• Andrew Spong, STweM

• Dennis Urbaniak, Sanofi

Once these pieces are published you can read in full the reasons behind their nominations, but here’s a snippet of some of the reasons below:-

• For generating freely available reagents: novel proteins, assays, structures, inhibitors, antibodies to academic and industry collaborators to discover new targets for drug discovery.

• His single-minded pursuit of informed innovation.

• Being a quiet but brilliant mind behind the industry’s first pharma-sponsored iPhone app.

• Her passion for patients, innovation, and pushing the edge is infectious!

• For being an inspirational leader.

• For being a true trailblazer when it comes to deploying social media in the pharma / med device industry.

• For writing and presenting extensively about innovation in pharma and offering real practical solutions that make huge positive differences to the success rate of launched products.

• For leading the digital revolution in the pharma industry with his futuristic vision, social media activities and eagerness to change how things are traditionally going.

• For openly sharing the company’s mindset, approach, and learnings in social media … which is refreshing in this industry!

It’s interesting to note how many recommendations there were based on achievements in digital and social media. This area is clearly one where making a difference doesn’t go unnoticed. It’s also nice to see that innovators in the industry are inspiring others and that people’s passion is so greatly recognised and also ‘infectious’.


“This area is clearly one where making a difference doesn’t go unnoticed.”


As the late Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, once said, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower,” and we, here at pharmaphorum, completely agree with him. Innovation is about thinking outside of the box and pushing boundaries, something which all of our top ten pharma innovators have been doing.

American actor Woody Allen has his own idea of what it takes to be a top innovator, “If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.”

So it seems all the usual clichés apply – if at first you don’t succeed, try again. Even Google wasn’t built in a day!


pharmaphorum-social-media-workshop-12th July


About the author:

Rebecca Aris is Managing Editor of pharmaphorum, the primary facilitator of thought leadership and innovation for the pharmaceutical industry featuring news, articles, events / company listings and online discussion.

Rebecca was the first full time employee to join pharmaphorum, starting in her current role in mid-2010, and is responsible for coordinating all editorial content on the site. Prior to working at pharmaphorum she was a medical writer at a healthcare PR agency, where she researched, wrote and proofread copy for a variety of medical education and communication materials over a vast range of therapy areas. In addition, she spent three years working as a commissioning editor on three journal titles at a biomedical publishing company. Rebecca holds a BSc (Hons) in pharmaceutical science.

For queries she can be reached through the site contact form or via Twitter @Rebecca_Aris.

How do you define a top innovator in pharma?