Vasella shaking up Novartis ops

Quick, name the top three challenges Big Pharma faces. Generics? Pricing pressure? Tough regulatory environment? If they're not the top three, they're at least significant enough for Daniel Vasella to build his remake of Novartis around them. They've depressed sales and profits at Novartis--and, in turn, the stock has dropped by a quarter over the past year.

So, enter Vasella with his new management team, bureaucracy fighting, R&D restructuring, and diversification projects. Let's take the last one first. Last month, Novartis made a deal for the eye-care company Alcon, and Vasella is also pushing aggressively into generic drugs and vaccines. His new right-hand man Joe Jimenez is slashing 25 percent of the HQ jobs, trying to cut through bureaucracy and red tape that has separated Vasella from his team and hamstrung operations. The R&D group is getting reorganized into small teams of eight people or so; they're tasked with spotting potential safety or regulatory problems early on and working with drug watchdogs to iron them out long before approval applications are submitted. And to tackle insurers' reluctance to pay big bucks for new drugs, Jimenez has started four pilot projects to improve Novartis' relationships with payers.

- read the story in the Wall Street Journal