How Roche pursues patient-centric innovation; inside the ‘Imaginarium’

sheilababnisThree years ago, the $50 billion Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche found itself in need of an innovation shake-up. Roche executives, like their peers at rival drug makers, were under pressure from investors to lower the cost of drug development, which can reach $1.6 billion per drug. At the same time, insurers and government health payers were demanding that pharma companies justify their drug prices with more data that showed positive patient outcomes.

Roche, with 85,000 employees, had no dedicated innovation team at the time. Now, its 10-person Innovation Management unit, helmed by Sheila Babnis, evaluates 10 to 20 new ideas per quarter, and is overseeing between 20 and 60 on-going projects at any given time. Babnis is part of Roche’s Pharmaceutical Development (PD) division, splitting her time between Roche headquarters in Basel and San Francisco. She reports to Corsee Sanders, Roche’s Senior Vice President for Development Innovation & Clinical Operations.

Getting Started

Babnis’ team started as a “strategic project” with a charge from upper management to make the company’s drug development processes more patient-centric. That meant a shift, she said, away from focusing on the traditional metrics of drug safety and efficacy.

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