When Your Competitor Becomes Your Collaborator

On this episode, Julianne Pepitone sits down with GSK’s Chief Scientific Officer Hal Barron to learn about collaboration when it comes to solving major challenges in human health. She learns how Hal defines what makes a great partnership and how he finds the people who are key to helping his team discover the next great innovation in medicine.

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How do you collaborate with a direct competitor? In the race for a COVID vaccine we’re hearing about lots of competitor collaborations, including GSK. Hal, for those of us not in pharma, I think the perception is that this is a hyper competitive industry. So to hear you talking about sitting down with folks who you compete with, especially in working toward a COVID vaccine, it feels surprising.


I was talking with a friend of mine from Johnson & Johnson. He said, “Why don’t we just form a group? All the heads of R&D, we should just meet weekly and figure out what the heck to do.”

So we did it. It kept growing and growing and we meet and we’d just bring up problems and say, “Well, what do you do about that?” Then it came down to how do we make better vaccines? Then the concept of, should we be sharing data? Should we be helping each other be successful in different ways? The answer was sure, and everyone said, “Terrific idea. Let’s do it.” The key thing was, let’s fix this thing. Scientists and science is almost like a superhero these days. It’s the only way to get this planet back in shape. It comes with a tremendous responsibility to do this thoughtfully. We’re just trying to make the world a better place.


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