The Sociology of Innovation at NIBR
If you ask associates at Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR) what energizes them about the organization, they are likely to describe our strategic approach to drug discovery - focus on unmet medical need of patients worldwide in areas where we understand the mechanism of disease. It has resulted in one of the leading pipelines in the pharmaceutical industry today, continually reinforced by a culture that demands innovation.
Drug discovery is incredibly complex. Success requires a global network of scientists working together across disciplines and geographies. “Drug discovery will not happen without experts in diverse fields. At the same time, to move drug discovery along faster to help patients, we cannot work in a silo type of structure. We need many types of experts-scientific and support professionals-to come together in teams creating a culture of learning that leads to innovative medicines,” noted Amri Johnson, Director, Diversity and Inclusion.
NIBR's culture is rooted in a sociology that encourages innovation and is driven by a team-based approach to drug discovery. “Our sociology of innovation is more than just hiring the best talent. We also provide a team-based structure that allows members to identify issues and risks around key scientific questions, make mid-course changes to a project, and help team members communicate their concerns and ideas about a project,” said Susan Sobolov, Head, Project Management Office and team leader of the Creative Teams effort at NIBR. “The goal, of course, is to get the most promising projects to patients faster, and NIBR teams have a great deal of autonomy in setting that path.”
Because NIBR has a network of scientists working in multidisciplinary teams worldwide -China, Singapore, Switzerland, Italy, U.K., and U.S- NIBR can and must connect its global workforce by investing in initiatives to support and develop more than 6,000 associates. Creative Teams is a framework that enables project excellence through a team-based culture. The goal is to connect the science and the scientists and get to the best idea no matter where it comes from. ” Molecular pathways where we focus much of our drug discovery efforts are connected to many disease areas. To ensure that the most promising research is shared, we need to figure out how to make broad connections through collaboration,” says Sobolov. “Without collaboration, we might have great research but will not necessarily deliver drugs to patients. Creative Teams is a key part of NIBR's innovative culture.”
Fostering a climate where collaboration and teamwork can thrive extends to the design of laboratory space, too. At NIBR's newest lab building (Fabrikstrasse 22) in Basel, Switzerland, design concepts that challenge the set up of the traditional laboratory environment are being explored to foster more team interaction.
“Fabrikstrasse 22's open spaces remove physical boundaries. The environment brings together scientists from various disciplines and organizational units to facilitate greater collaboration. Formal collaboration is augmented by chance encounters such as meeting at science or coffee areas, where colleagues learn about projects and have stimulating discussions,” said Stefan Wetzel, Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow and tenant of the Fabrikstrasse 22 building. Seamlessly integrated technology contributes to the success of Fabrikstrasse 22. For example, scientists use software to collaborate with colleagues no matter where they are at any given time. These learnings are impacting design at NIBR science facilities now under construction in the US and China.
The best talent expects a dynamic work environment that meets the demands of an increasingly global workforce, charged with translating fundamental science into treatments that address unmet medical need. If awards are any indication of success, this approach has led to Novartis being named among the “Most Admired” (Fortune and MedAdNews), “Most Innovative” (Fast Company), “Most Respected” (Barrons), and “Most Ethical” (PharmaVoice) companies in the world.
Research at NIBR
Our global research efforts begin and end with the patient.