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Research & Development

For more than a century, our company has been inventing medicines and vaccines for many of the world’s most challenging diseases. We embrace our responsibility to address the health needs of patients and society by inventing for life through world-class science.



We are committed to addressing unmet medical needs through innovative research and development (R&D). R&D expenses were $9.8 billion in 2018, $10.3 billion in 2017, $10.3 billion in 2016, and $6.8 billion in 2015 (which included restructuring costs and acquisition- and divestiture-related costs in all years).

The talent of our scientists, combined with scientific and technological advances that enable the rapid invention of expanding classes of therapeutics and higher resolution translational medicine studies, are transforming the way we conduct research.

We have strategically located discovery centers in regions with active biomedical research communities including South San Francisco, California, Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, UK. These centers allow us to recruit talented local scientists and facilitate collaboration with local academic institutions and companies. These discovery sites complement and connect with our strong research and development capabilities and expertise based at our New Jersey and Pennsylvania sites.

Our pipeline programs are prioritized based on medical need, scientific opportunity and commercial potential.

We are committed to advancing the most promising research and clinical development strategies to bring forward new medicines and vaccines that will make a meaningful difference in patients’ lives.

Pediatric R&D

To address unmet medical needs in children, we include pediatric development programs in the company’s new drug and vaccine development strategies as appropriate.

We rely on an internal Pediatric Development Committee that pools pediatric expertise across disciplines and therapeutic areas to review and provide input into pediatric development of our drugs and vaccines. The Committee serves as a Center of Excellence within our company to consult on pediatric development issues and pediatric policy questions.

Our pipeline

We prioritize our R&D efforts on advancing candidates that we believe represent the next areas of breakthrough science that will make a difference and deliver value for patients, physicians and payers.

Our products and research priorities are aligned with the current and projected global burden of disease (GBD), as well as with the increasing need for new therapies targeted at diseases such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease and antibiotic-resistant infections, as well as in disease prevention through vaccine development.

Our research pipeline illustrates the progress of our R&D efforts. An update on our R&D activities can be found in our Form 10-K or on our corporate website.

Global Burden of Disease

As defined by the GBD 2010 Visualization tools developed by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), the diseases that we address rank high on the list of worldwide causes of death. Our research into vaccines and infectious diseases addresses major burdens of disease that are prevalent in all countries, and our preventive treatments could have the greatest impact in the developing world, where health care infrastructure is weak or nonexistent.

Considering our pipeline and the list of products we currently market, we estimate that our company is seeking to address 88 percent of the top 20 global burdens of disease as defined by the IHME, excluding road injury, self-harm and preterm birth complications.


The stated objective of the Compliance Committee Charter within our research laboratories is to ensure ongoing compliance with applicable laws and requirements in all business areas through appropriate management structure, processes and training.

In order to manage compliance, the Compliance Committee is composed of members of the Research Leadership Team. As a result, compliance efforts encompass the entire division and go beyond simply addressing the conduct of clinical trials.

The Compliance Committee also promotes ethical science and provides guidance to our employees within the research organization on our company’s standards and corporate policies, as well as necessary education related to specific requirements applicable to the research community.

External collaboration

We support academic and community-based physicians and researchers in expanding clinical and scientific knowledge, and in improving understanding of the appropriate use of our products.

Our Investigator Studies Program exemplifies our efforts to advance science and improve patient care. Through this program, we provide medicines, vaccines and/or funding for peer-reviewed research that is initiated, designed, implemented and sponsored by external investigators. This program fosters collaboration with researchers throughout the world who are active in emerging research areas of interest and has established a track record for scientific exchange through presentations and the publication of findings in peer-reviewed journals.

We are active participants within the scientific community providing support to many professional associations. In addition to promoting dialogue and the exchange of ideas in research, we sponsor research conferences—such as selected Gordon Research Conferences, an international forum in which researchers discuss advances in biologic, chemical and physical science.

Public-private research partnerships

We recognize that individuals or companies cannot successfully develop drugs single-handedly. Most cases of true innovation come from robust and honest collaboration among individuals and organizations with diverse backgrounds and capabilities, brought together by the idea of changing the course of human health.

As part of our R&D strategy, we pursue opportunities to establish external alliances that complement our internal research capabilities, including research collaborations and licensing agreements for preclinical and clinical therapeutic candidates that have the potential to drive both near- and long-term growth.

Drug discovery collaborations

One recently completed project, DRIVE-AB (Driving reinvestment in research and development for antibiotics and advocating their responsible use) brought together a consortium of 23 partners including pharmaceutical companies, academic institutions and public health organizations, to develop new economic models and recommendations to promote antibiotic innovation and the sustainable use of the resulting, novel antibiotics.

Industry consortia

We also collaborate with external researchers and other members of the biopharmaceutical industry through participation in selected scientific consortia. Consortia are an important mechanism by which researchers can work together in a precompetitive manner to address complex scientific challenges common to all parties.

Please visit our Business Development & Licensing site to learn more.


RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Research and development expenses (in billions)$7.3 $6.8 $10.3 $10.3 $9.8
Employees involved in research activities11,400 11,900 12,300 12,700 14,500
New products approved1 7 2 3 4 2
Products in the pipeline and under regulatory review33 31 39 26 24
Top 20 global burdens of illness addressed by our products and pipeline2 88% 88% 88% 88% 88%
Established significant external licenses and collaborations35 64 57 55 64
Filed U.S. patent applications 125 185 195 190 127
1 Candidates in our company’s research pipeline or under regulatory review as reported in the United States Securities and Exchange Commission Form 10-K, filed on February 27, 2019. Approval of new products only. This does not include approvals for supplemental indications. When candidates attain regulatory approval, they are removed from this pipeline view.
2 As defined by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) using GBD 2015 data.