Eli Lilly has been describing two innovative approaches to R&D that are bearing fruit, involving independent funding as well as its internal "lean virtual development organisation". 

First up is the Mirror Portfolio, a concept created by Lilly and financed by independent investment funds. One of these funds has acquired two molecules; the first is being developed pre-clinically by researchers at a major academic institution for congestive heart failure and the second (which was developed by Lilly) is being studied for its potential in bone healing and cancer.

Robert Armstrong, vice president of global external R&D at Lilly, said that "working with venture capital to make the concept of the Mirror Portfolio a reality is one way Lilly is 'innovating on innovation'." He added that the scheme provides access to "capital, capacity, capability and deep disease expertise that can be focused on developing molecules generated in research institutions or biotechnology companies".

The rights to successful molecules could then be purchased by Lilly, which has committed to invest up to 20% of the capital for these funds, or up to $150 million. In addition to cash, the US major will offer to out-license molecules to these funds and receive preferential access to them.

The aforementioned preclinical molecule will now go to Chorus, Lilly's small, multidisciplinary drug development group which conducts early-stage development work using a virtual model. It is claimed that Chorus has been able to "reach decisions about 12 months earlier and at about half the cost of the current industry model". 

To date, it has delivered data on 17 molecules, six of which resulted in positive proof-of-concept. Lilly says that due in part to its successful track record and the increased demand for capacity related to the Mirror Portfolio opportunities, it has 'cloned' the original Chorus and set up Chorus Resonance in Indianapolis, Chorus Europe in the UK and Vanthys, a joint venture in India. The company will make these drug development groups available to the Mirror Portfolio funds as a fee-for-service offering.

Jan Lundberg, head of science and technology and president of Lilly Research Laboratories, said the Mirror Portfolio "supports our innovation strategy which consists of three key components - molecule uniqueness, speed and cost efficiencies - which together are the cornerstone of our R&D philosophy".