The Genesis Labs at Novartis
Novartis' Genesis Labs program, launched in 2016 as part of Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research (NIBR), hosted pitch competitions where teams of NIBR scientists proposed ideas to explore that aimed to revolutionize drug discovery. The goal was to break down barriers between functions and regions that slow innovation. After advancing to the pitch stage, a panel selected a handful of winning proposals. Winning teams left their roles for 18 months and received the resources and laboratory space to pursue their ideas. By 2018, two cohorts of winners had been selected-one almost at the end of its 18-month tenure and the other soon to begin. Genesis Labs had already overcome several hurdles-for example, scientists at first worried that stepping out of their ordinary role or pitching ideas that were not chosen could end their careers at Novartis. Though the Genesis Labs program ultimately succeeded in attracting many candidates, the company wondered how to further refine it to foster greater agility in Novartis R&D. Should they expand the call for entries? Did it encourage true shoot-the-moon ideas? How often should the program run, and how disruptive should it be to existing teams? What was the best way to reintegrate scientists to prior roles after their 18-month stint as part of Genesis Labs was over? Finally, could such contests be adapted and rolled out in other functions in the organization?