McKinsey’s Harriet Keane, Rachel Moss, Aliza Apple and Valentina Sartori take a look at how drug companies are turning to the concept of agility to transform their R&D functions. The authors note the particular challenges of R&D transformations in the pharma sector, including high investment levels, long development timelines, and high rates of failure beyond a company’s control; the initially “disorienting” move of typically risk-averse staff who prize rigidity and sequence over an agile model; intense competition with peers as innovation cycles accelerate; and the need to serve diverse external stakeholders, including regulators, payers, providers and patients, that can add complexity to transformation planning.

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