Discovery vs Development

In Bio/pharmaceutical companies, project Leader authority and effectiveness tends to increase from early Discovery to final Drug Development. In early Target Discovery, there may be no formally recognized project team or project leader, but usually once there is a commitment to screening, a project is organized and a part-time project leader named. Project leaders in Lead Discovery and Lead Optimization tend to be part-time or full-time coordinators but not professional project leaders. Line managers play a large role in the conduct of the Discovery project. Once candidate selection has occurred, the project is typically managed by a full-time professional project leader. The small set of projects that reach Full Development, especially those with block-buster potential, are often run as a project office, or possibly as autonomous teams, with direct reporting to the most senior managers.

The level of training and certification of the full-time project leader are likely to vary among companies, some requiring certification from a group like the Project Management Institute, others seeing it as ‘nice to have’. Here ‘professional’ means that the project leader position is recognized by the company as being filled by someone with the unique skill set of a project leader, distinguishable from any other scientific or business training the individual may have.

Inevitably, the style of project management is likely to vary from early Discovery to final Drug Development, as outlined below.


Discovery Project Leader

  • Volunteer from line departments
  • Averse to detailed project tracking & reporting – keep it simple (Gantt charts a tough sell)
  • Line managers needs to value this work
  • The PL will be beholden to the line managers for resource and delivery dates


Development Project Leader

  • Professional project leader
  • Appreciates the value of project tracking & reporting – sticks to what is necessary (Gantt charts a minimal necessity)
  • Line managers will be influential in early Development.