Oiling the Engines of Invention

Big Pharma-biotech alliances
Oct 01, 2004

The Dealmakers Sitting: Winston Ko, MBA, chairman and CEO, Genervon Biopharmaceuticals; Carol Fisher, editor-in-chief, BioPharm International magazine; Stan Bernard, MD, MBA, president, Bernard Associates; Ed Broughton, senior vice- president of business development and new products, Eisai; and William H. Koster, PhD, president and CEO, Neurogen. Standing: Herbert S. Ormsbee, PhD, senior director, licensing and development, Pfizer; Barbara Yanni, vice-president and chief licensing officer, Merck; Ron Pepin, PhD, senior vice-president, business development, Medarex; Gary Cupit, PharmD, vice-president, global business development and licensing, Novartis; and Patrick Clinton, editor-in-chief, Pharmaceutical Executive magazine.
Cohosted by Pharmaceutical Executive and BioPharm International magazines, the first BioPartnerships Roundtable recently brought together some of pharma's busiest and most visible people. Executives involved in business development and licensing sought to uncoverthe elements of success that productive pharma-biotech alliances have in common. This article offers a small sampling of insights gleaned from an edited transcript of the day's discussion, which was surprisingly casual and friendly, considering the participants' ultimate job responsibility—to compete with one another to stock their companies' pipelines with the most promising products. Many of them already knew other participants; a few already had deals in place. Whatever their relationships, though, they are key players in the increasingly critical field of business—and science—and seemed genuinely pleased to allow us to learn from their varied and relevant experiences.

An Evolving Impetus It's no secret that pharma and biotech companies are finding success in their codevelopment arrangements. What might be surprising are the changing reasons for their growth rate.

Stan Bernard, MD, MBA (moderator) Both industries seem to be working together more closely. What's driving the increase in partnering activities?

NEUROGEN'S WILLIAM H. KOSTER, PhD (second from left) was on the team that built E.R. Squibb & Sons into a $12 billion business before it became Bristol-Myers Squibb in 1989. PFIZER'S HERBERT S. ORMSBEE, PhD (second from right) was vice-president, scientific assessment for Wyeth-Ayerst Research before he joined Pfizer in 1999. Today, his licensing responsibilities span several therapeutic areas.
William H. Koster, PhD [Neurogen] Having lived on both sides, a key issue for biotech today is accessing capital. On the pharma side, we were trying to achieve double-digit growth in the 1990s. But to achieve even 15 percent growth, we would have to put 20-30 preclinical candidates into the pipeline a year just to account for the attrition rate. And since that hasn't changed for large companies, they're still looking at portfolio expansion to meet those attrition rates.

Gary Cupit, PharmD [Novartis] There's also the maturation of the biotech industry. Cutting-edge companies did everything internally—built their own manufacturing facilities, developed their own protocols. Clinical endpoints weren't defined for some of the diseases they pursued and the mechanisms they discovered. But over the last 12-15 years, it has developed an infrastructure of its own.

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