Fast cars and medicines make an odd couple. But that is indeed the off-track relationship that drug-major GlaxoSmithKline has forged last month with Formula 1 ace-team and auto-engineering company McLaren.

The adrenalin-pumping F1 environment involves high levels of criticality and agility in engineering, decision-making and skills. About 6,000 scenarios are predicted per second, said Mr Andrew Witty, GSK Plc's Chief Executive, explaining to his fellow-Indian counterparts the rationale behind this outside-the-box alliance to address efficiency at different levels.

They predict outcomes and these skills can be leveraged in drug-development, where the chance of striking the right molecule that could be tomorrow's blockbuster drug is as good as taking a shot in the dark, a drug-company official says, on the ground-breaking initiative.

Analytical ability

Drug-companies screen several, before they identify promising molecules. GSK is looking to tap McLaren's analytical ability to hit on potential scenarios in drug-development, Mr Witty said.

Besides drug-development, the British medicine-maker is also working with McLaren's engineers in manufacturing. “We work with their engineers to improve the reliability of the production line,” he said. At the core, “we work with machines,” he said, indicating the importance of being at the pinnacle of efficiency, as McLaren is — racing the second most successful team in Formula One, after Ferrari.

The collaboration between these two British companies, both focused on innovation and high-tech research, will run initially to 2016, the companies had said, when announcing the deal.

The game-changing deal involves “the distillation, communication and application of 45 years' worth of winning Formula 1 expertise, meticulously adapted and tailored to the needs of a new McLaren Group partner, GSK,” Mclaren said. It includes “analytics, data management, strategy modelling, processes, telemetry and human IP,” it added.

The partnership also looks at GSK's Consumer Healthcare businesses, specifically its GSK Nutritionals business unit, which markets key brands such as Lucozade, Panadol and Sensodyne, McLaren said.

New facility

“Based on McLaren Racing's existing Formula 1 race-strategy Mission Control centre, GSK Nutritionals will construct an all-new Mission Control facility at its London headquarters. This facility will drive faster decision-making around variables such as wholesaler stocking, inventory management, pricing, responding to retailer requests, competitor activity, and market and customer needs,” it explained.

A new and modern learning facility will also be constructed, as part of the agreement. This McLaren GSK Centre for Applied Performance will be located alongside the existing award-winning McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, Surrey. 

And employees from both organisations, and other partners, will be able to use the facility to share ideas and collaborate on innovative, dynamic and exciting joint working projects.

The McLaren GSK Centre for Applied Performance will be opened in 2013, the companies said.

(This article was published on October 27, 2011)
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