Images courtesy of Merck & Co.

For the pharmaceutical industry, the numbers do not add up. Investment in drug development has tripled in the past 10 years to more than $30 billion (US), but the industry has fewer new drugs to show for it. After peaking at 131 in 1996, the number of new drug applications filed with the US Food and Drug Administration dropped to 78 in 2002.

In response, pharmaceutical companies are scrambling to realign and reinvent research and development operations. Mass mergers, new high-tech equipment, collaborations with academics and biotech firms, and new management structures are being implemented to spur researchers to work better and faster. The push for productivity in the labs has stirred trepidation over the possibility of layoffs and even simple resistance to change; nonetheless, researchers say they welcome the idea of shaking up stodgy bureaucracies in hopes of getting better results.

"On the...

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