There is a growing realization among the major pharmaceutical companies that even with billion-dollar R&D budgets there always will be research projects that cannot be provided with adequate resources. Moreover, the increasing pressure to find new blockbuster drugs means that short shrift is given to projects unlikely to deliver $300 million-plus annually.

As a result, said Janet Dewdney, formerly director and vice president of biotechnology at SmithKline Beecham (SB) and now founding executive chairman of AdProTech plc, "some projects find themselves at the bottom of the list not because they represent poor science but because they are no longer considered to be on the critical path for drug development."