Mention New Jersey to someone on the street, and he or she is likely to think of Springsteen, the Sopranos, or (God forbid) Snooki. But PharmTech readers know that New Jersey is an important state for the drug industry. Many big companies, such as Johnson and Johnson, sanofi-aventis, Novartis, and Pfizer, have headquarters or other offices in the state. And the Garden State’s drugmakers are facing the same difficulties that confront the industry at large.
New Jersey’s pharmaceutical workforce has shrunk as a result of mergers and flagging sales, and observers are searching for a tonic to give the industry new life. One necessary strategy is to form partnerships with international investors or other drugmakers, said David Finegold, dean of Rutgers University’s school of management and labor relations, at the EU–NJ Business Forum. Investors in South Korea, India, and China are putting a lot of money into the industry, but they don’t have people with experience in gaining FDA approval for their products, Finegold said, according to The Record.
Finegold’s model of choice is the partnership between Merck & Co. and the Wellcome Trust medical charity, which is based in the United Kingdom. The partnership aims to prevent diseases that affect poor countries by developing new vaccines and optimizing existing vaccines. Merck and the Wellcome Trust invest equally in the partnership and share decision-making responsibilities.
The partners run the venture like a business, but according to a not-for-profit model, which is a foreign concept to most drugmakers. Yet the pharmaceutical industry will have to get used to this idea. To survive, firms will have to abandon their high profit-margin business models, Finegold said.
Give him credit for trying to get risk-averse drug companies to adopt new and creative ways of thinking and operating. Although Finegold’s recommendations could help stimulate the industry, I wonder whether they would increase domestic employment. The Merck–Wellcome Trust partnership, Finegold’s template, is based in India. An ideal business model would foster international cooperation, create domestic jobs, and encourage the development of needed therapies. If nothing else, Finegold’s remarks will help start discussions that could lead the industry toward this ideal.