Switzerland’s Roche has announced plans for a major restructuring of its R&D activities around five therapeutic areas which it says should speed up development of drugs and increase efficiency.

The plan involves setting up Disease Biology Areas (DBAs), which will cover the whole range of activities from R&D to strategic marketing in a specific therapeutic field and be located at one site. The five DBAs are oncology (based in Nutley, New Jersey) virology and inflammation (at Palo Alto, California), metabolism and central nervous system (Basel, Switzerland).

Roche said that by “simplifying and accelerating the multiple decision-making processes involved, the model will be more efficient and effective in translating research activity in each therapeutic area into clinically differentiated medicines," noting that this new model is designed to ensure that the firm's “steadily expanding R&D operation is suitably equipped to meet increasingly complex requirements.”

William Burns, head of Roche’s pharmaceuticals division, said that "we’re taking the opportunity to refocus at a time of economic strength on the challenges that lie ahead", adding that new structures “and flatter hierarchies will enable us to be more aligned and focused, take decisions faster, implement ideas more rapidly, and bring more new products through the pipeline.”

The new DBA model will involve a number of personnel changes at the top, and Lee Babiss, currently research site chief at Nutley, has been appointed to the newly-created position of Head of Roche Pharma Research, reporting to Mr Burns.