Lessons learned from the fate of AstraZeneca's drug pipeline: a five-dimensional framework

Nat Rev Drug Discov. 2014 Jun;13(6):419-31. doi: 10.1038/nrd4309. Epub 2014 May 16.


Maintaining research and development (R&D) productivity at a sustainable level is one of the main challenges currently facing the pharmaceutical industry. In this article, we discuss the results of a comprehensive longitudinal review of AstraZeneca's small-molecule drug projects from 2005 to 2010. The analysis allowed us to establish a framework based on the five most important technical determinants of project success and pipeline quality, which we describe as the five 'R's: the right target, the right patient, the right tissue, the right safety and the right commercial potential. A sixth factor - the right culture - is also crucial in encouraging effective decision-making based on these technical determinants. AstraZeneca is currently applying this framework to guide its R&D teams, and although it is too early to demonstrate whether this has improved the company's R&D productivity, we present our data and analysis here in the hope that it may assist the industry overall in addressing this key challenge.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomedical Research* / economics
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / economics
  • Decision Making, Organizational
  • Drug Design*
  • Drug Discovery* / economics
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical / economics
  • Drug Industry* / economics
  • Drugs, Investigational / adverse effects
  • Drugs, Investigational / economics
  • Drugs, Investigational / pharmacology
  • Drugs, Investigational / therapeutic use*
  • Efficiency, Organizational
  • Humans
  • Models, Organizational*
  • Organizational Culture
  • Research Support as Topic
  • Technology, Pharmaceutical / economics


  • Drugs, Investigational