The breathless race against covid-19 led pharma to "break all of the rules", says Tim van Biesen of Bain, a consultancy. This prompted CEOs to ask why they weren't more agile in their day-to-day operations. John Reed, head of research and development (R&D) at Sanofi, a French giant, says the pandemic has pushed decision-making lower down the corporate ladder, helping his firm move with a greater sense of urgency. "We got trial concepts together in three or four days that took three or four months in the past," he marvels.
Big Pharma's sclerotic innovation model is also being shaken up. In the past there were "way fewer targets" for drug firms to pursue, says Mr Bourla, so it made sense to bet big on a few blockbusters. Now, he observes, firms must choose among hundreds of possibilities. This "explosion of new platforms and drug candidates will result in much more collaboration" of the Pfizer-BioNTech sort, predicts David Risinger of Morgan Stanley, an investment bank. Drugmakers are obsessed with guarding intellectual property but many industry watchers, including Mr van Biesen of Bain, have long argued that they should embrace more open-source innovation. A flurry of recent collaborations suggests that they may at last be listening.