Associates Breakfast with John Lechleiter, President, CEO and Chairman, Eli Lilly & Co.

January 14, 2010

Santa Monica


Eli Lilly CEO John Lechleiter talks about the future of his company and the pharmaceutical industry.

Very few of America's top pharmaceutical executives actually know their way around a research lab. But John Lechleiter is a rarity: He's an organic chemist who traded in his lab coat for a business suit. Today, as President, CEO and Chairman of Eli Lilly & Company, he brings a unique dose of scientific insight to the executive suite.

Lechleiter recently joined the Milken Institute Associates for a private breakfast meeting focused on the problems with the current drug development model, which he has described as "taking too long, costing too much, and producing too little."

Big Pharma is under major pressure in this era of the billion-dollar drug and growing competition from generics. "The industry has to change and adapt in a fairly radical fashion," Lechleiter acknowledged. He described Eli Lilly's increasing emphasis on partnerships and collaborations outside the company, including the use of external resources for clinical trials. Lilly has also developed a venture fund that invests in biotechs and research labs.

He also addressed broader issues of American competitiveness.

"We have to maintain a viable ecosystem for innovation and value scientific inquiry," Lechleiter said. "It's crucial to reverse our declining capabilities in math and science at the K-12 level."

He called for sustained investments in the government-academic infrastructure for research, noting in particular that NIH grant need to be long-term. "These basic research projects develop future scientists," insisted Lechleiter. Noting that 1 percent of Eli Lilly's workforce is foreign, he also called for immigration reform so the United States can attract and retain the best and brightest international grad students.

This event was open only to Milken Institute Associates. To join or learn more about the program, please contact Mindy Silverstein, Director of the Associates, at (310) 570-4634 or