Partnerships and strategic agreements are common in the pharma industry. Flicking through my inbox of the last few days I see Bristol-Myers Squibb and Ono, Catalent and Toyobo Biologics… both very sensible. But one particular announcement this week gave me cause to raise my eyebrows and smile.
I like cars, and I like fast cars even more. So too, it would seem, does GlaxoSmithKline’s CEO Andrew Witty as the company is embarking on a long-term strategic partnership with the McLaren group, which is best known for its Formula 1 racing cars. The phrase “best of British” really does sum up the partnership and both companies seem extremely proud of it. The aim for GSK? Applying McLaren’s engineering and technical expertise to production lines to reduce breakdowns and improve costs, amongst other things.
“I am delighted to announce this partnership with McLaren which brings together two British companies whose continued success hinges on the ability to innovate and rapidly respond to change and competitor activity.” said Witty in a GSK press release. Witty considers the unusual pairing to be “looking outside its sector for inspiration and fresh perspectives” – and where better to look than a sport with 720 bph engines and grid girls? What the McLaren Group stands to gain, I can only guess…
Reading the joint press releases, it really does seem to make some sense; in particular, the state-of-the-art facility planned for 2013 to be called The McLaren GSK Centre for Applied Performance sounds like a novel way of breathing a little fresh air into pharma’s slightly sagging sails. Scientists, engineers and technologists from both camps will be able to share ideas and collaborate on innovative, dynamic and exciting joint working projects. And let’s face it, sometimes a fresh outlook is exactly what is required to make real progress. In some ways, it puts me in mind of the Novartis-MIT Center for Continuous Manufacturing – though admittedly, this collaboration is more readily justifiable and the aim a lot less vague…
Having said that, there are some defined goals. Alongside the aforementioned application of McLaren’s modelling system to the GSK production line, the R&D organisation will examine whether real-time monitoring technologies can be applied to human studies and the GSK Consumer Healthcare business will work with McLaren’s “Mission Control” unit to enable faster responses to competitor activity and customer needs.
Some might say that it smacks of a marketing stunt, and certainly it will do GSK no harm to be associated with such a fast-paced, exciting, technologically advanced, continually improving world—aren’t these all qualities that we would like to see demonstrated by pharma companies? I guess the level of investment that GSK pumps into the project may answer any critics and I look forward to seeing what comes into fruition.
The news has left me wondering what else the future may hold… Sanofi and Red Bull Racing? Merck and Merc? The race to the chequered flag is on!
No matter the real reasons behind the partnership, I will certainly be settling down on the sofa this weekend to see the top F1 drivers battle it out in Singapore—the perfect accompaniment to a traditional home-cooked Sunday lunch – another best of British.