Why is Lilly Doing This? 4

Drug Information Association (DIA) 2012 was filled with sharing and learning.  The conference theme was “Collaborate To Innovate,” and Dean Kamen set the tone by sharing how he’s collaborated in prosthetic limb development and water purification. Dean left DIA with a friendly tweak and an implicit challenge.  He shared that the Coca Cola Company, by distributing water purifiers to the over 1 billion people who are in need of clean water, might improve the health of more people than the sum total of all members of DIA.  What a way to start the conference.

As people came to our booth, there was a pattern of questioning that emerged.  It goes something like:

DIA Attendee: “Eli Lilly?! What are you selling?”

Lilly COI: “Uh, nothing”

DIA Attendee: “Well, what are you doing here then?”

Lilly COI: “We’re leading Open Innovation in Clinical Development and have some tools and projects we are putting in the open for free.  We think it’s good.”

DIA Attendee: “That’s sounds interesting (pause, quizzical look). But isn’t Lilly a for profit company?”

Lilly COI: “Yup”

DIA Attendee: “Well, why are you – Lilly – doing this?”

So, let’s unpack and clarify:

We are not selling anything.  All knowledge, tools, software, and resources will be licensed and available for use for free in the open.  We are promoting the idea that open data, in an open network where people contribute to digital information and objects in the domain of clinical development is good for patients, the pharma industry and the companies, vendors and institutions that make it up.

We are a group at Eli Lilly and Company in the Clinical Development Organization.  We explore and experiment by doing.  Please know we are not the sole voice of R&D innovation at Eli Lilly and Company (See Chorus, Open Innovation Drug Discovery,  and many, many more). We do represent the Lilly brand as we explore Lilly Clinical Open Innovation. John Lechleiter, Lilly CEO speaks on innovation in a recent Pharmaceutical and Medical Innovation Forbes article.

So then, why is Lilly doing this – Clinical Open Innovation?

1) Drug development is too costly, uncertain, takes too long and doesn’t meet the needs of patients well enough.  The business model in it’s current form won’t sustain. We believe that leveraging open data and building collaborative, knowledge generation networks in non-competitive spaces in drug development can make it better.  A rising tide raises all ships.  If it’s good for patients and the drug development industry, it’s good for Lilly.

2) The network is the thing.  More specifically, the people and the knowledge in the network are what really matters.  If we can help facilitate the network, we can get to know people in the network.  People like you.  That’s what matters.  The relationships we make matter, and it helps Lilly to have good relationships with good, smart, well intended people, the types of which might well join an Open Clinical Intelligence Network.

We are pleased by the questions and level of conversations we had at DIA.  As you can imagine, among 7500 attendees and hundreds of exhibitors, long, rich discussions in an exhibitor booth are an exception.  But we had quite a few.  And as we engaged with others, we generated ideas.

One new idea that emerged in multiple conversations focused on how clinical trial education – for site personnel like investigators and operations staff – is an area where inefficiency abounds. What if there was an open sharing of education credentials? Sponsors would know who is trained, and could avoid redundant training costs. Site personnel would only be trained on what was needed instead of going through hours of training for every single trial. The notion of open, shared education credentials could reduce the time and cost of clinical trials. There’s opportunity to optimize for sure.

I hope this helps to understand more about who we are, what we are working on – as well as why. Please let us know if it makes sense, or if you have additional questions.  We look forward to keeping in touch.


  1. Pingback: Red Door Profile: Dean Kamen–Innovator | Two Voices, One Song

  2. You are very welcome. I hope you found it useful, and we welcome your feedback, ideas and actions to make clinical development better using Open Innovation methods.

  3. Pingback: Tech helping speed clinical development: “human body on a chip” « lillycoi

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