Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Here Are the Winners of Cowen's Big Pharma R&D Showdown

By Keith Speights and Brian Orelli, PhD – Aug 7, 2021 at 10:02AM

Key Points

  • Cowen evaluated big pharmaceutical companies' R&D programs on five measurements related to the speed and effectiveness of development.
  • Focused pipelines helped the winning drugmakers.

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

The Wall Street firm put big drugmakers' R&D programs through five different tests.

The investment firm Cowen (COWN -0.05%) recently revealed the results of its first "research and development pentathlon" that evaluated multiple big drugmakers. In this Motley Fool Live video recorded on July 28, 2021, Motley Fool contributors Keith Speights and Brian Orelli discuss the winners in Cowen's R&D contest.

10 stocks we like better than Novo Nordisk
When our award-winning analyst team has a stock tip, it can pay to listen. After all, the newsletter they have run for over a decade, Motley Fool Stock Advisor, has tripled the market.*

They just revealed what they believe are the ten best stocks for investors to buy right now... and Novo Nordisk wasn't one of them! That's right -- they think these 10 stocks are even better buys.

See the 10 stocks


*Stock Advisor returns as of June 7, 2021


Keith Speights: The investment firm Cowen just announced results from its first-ever research and development pentathlon. The Wall Street firm evaluated multiple big drugmakers on how they jumped five different hurdles related to their R&D programs. What do you make of Cowen's R&D games here, and which companies were the winners?

Brian Orelli: This only looked at large drugmakers, and they looked at data from 2012 to 2021. The companies were scored by their ability to get drugs through development efficiently. The five measurements were basically on speed and effectiveness in different aspects of speed.

Novo Nordisk (NVO 0.88%) took the gold, Merck (MRK -1.87%) took the silver, and Roche (RHHBY 0.10%) took the bronze. AbbVie (ABBV -1.76%) and Eli Lilly (LLY -2.90%) rounded out the top five. Then in the bottom two were Pfizer (PFE -0.12%) and Novartis (NVS -0.69%), and there were quite a few in the middle.

The problem with these comparisons -- and Cowen fully acknowledges that they're just subjective -- how much weight you give each category obviously matters a lot.

Cowen said that Novo Nordisk probably won due to its focused pipeline. That larger pipelines seemed to hurt companies, although Roche was an exception there They have a pretty large pipeline and they were able to take silver. But a lot of the companies with larger pipelines seemed to be get hurt by their scoring process. Obviously, that's not necessarily what you would like to see as an investor. You'd like to actually see a large pipeline.

Obviously, the companies still have to be effective at developing the drugs in their pipeline, but obviously larger is typically better from an investor standpoint, all things being equal. The other question is, how do you measure the results? A lot of it was based on's data. But companies have some leeway in when they make changes to and when they put in their clinical trials into the system.

And so I think that that could actually be affecting the companies in ways that doesn't necessarily measure the actual effectiveness of the companies. They're just measuring when they are actually putting the data into the system.

They're not necessarily putting in the system thinking that Cowen's going to be measuring this, and so we should wait and not put it until we're really ready. If they put it in early and then Cowen's measuring that as delay in the clinical trial start date where another company might just put it in later because they don't really care and they're just putting it in right before they start the clinical trial. I think that confounds the results.

Keith Speights owns shares of AbbVie and Pfizer. The Motley Fool recommends Novo Nordisk. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Stocks Mentioned

Novo Nordisk Stock Quote
Novo Nordisk
$128.91 (0.88%) $1.12
Pfizer Stock Quote
$51.72 (-0.12%) $0.06
Merck Stock Quote
$108.78 (-1.87%) $-2.07
Roche Ag Stock Quote
Roche Ag
$40.51 (0.10%) $0.04
Eli Lilly And Stock Quote
Eli Lilly And
$360.99 (-2.90%) $-10.80
Novartis Ag Stock Quote
Novartis Ag
$90.95 (-0.69%) $0.63
AbbVie Stock Quote
$163.06 (-1.76%) $-2.93
Cowen Stock Quote
$38.57 (-0.05%) $0.02

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

Related Articles

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.