The life sciences are having a significant impact on the organisation and management of R&D in large pharmaceutical firms, as well as restructuring the markets for new therapeutic products. However, there is continuing scepticism about large firms' ability or inclination to build in-house capacity for biologics and extract value from the life sciences. This paper explores the effect of life science innovation on early and late-stage R&D, and considers the implications for strategic management and the transition of compounds through the middle stages of the R&D pathway. The analysis, which includes two company case studies, reveals that new life science technologies have had a marginal impact on late-stage R&D, but companies are exploring new organisational or translational models to better exploit the science and reduce the phase 2 attrition rates. Findings suggest that firms have the capability to adapt to a new innovation trajectory, but external pressures on strategic and organisational management will continue to determine the level and rate of success.