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Lead optimisation funnel diagrams – Visual aid to process improvement, realistic goal setting and resource management


Amethyst Informatics Limited, St John’s House, 5 South Parade, Oxford, OX2 7JL, United Kingdom


This article discusses how Funnel Diagrams can be used to make a positive impact on your lead optimisation projects. Topics include: spotting process bottlenecks, confirming the successful impact of process changes, gaining insights into how achievable a goal is, taking a glance at how resources are split across multiple projects and assessing resource needs. Two example lead optimisation projects that are at different stages are used to illustrate the funnel applications. An error bar extension to the original visualisation is presented.


There has been much discussion and debate on the exact cost of inventing a new drug, as highlighted by a recent article from Forbes (1). Although an exact figure cannot be agreed upon, it is clear that launching a drug is a very long and costly task. Lead optimisation has been estimated to be the most expensive phase within drug discovery and development when taking capitalised costs into account (2). Process improvement in lead optimisation therefore has the potential to have a large impact on the industry’s productivity, as long as it is ensured that scientific innovation is not inhibited (3). The effect of process improvement work on people’s motivation and therefore scientific creativity and innovation needs careful consideration (9-12). It is important to consider not only what is measured, but also how it is used.
Several successful applications of continuous improvement strategies to lead optimisation have been published (4-8). Here, we take a look at how the Funnel Diagrams (8), a previously developed process improvement tool, can be used to retrospectively review projects to help set realistic achievable goals and there ...