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Alliances, Like Politics, Make “Strange Bedfellows”

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 20, 2014
Originally posted on 2/6/2013

Our editor-in-chief Michael Burke passes along this excerpt from our Q1 2013 edition of Strategic Alliance Magazine...

We know you’re eagerly awaiting that great moment when the next issue of Strategic Alliance Magazine lands in your mailbox—sort of like Steve Martin in The Jerk, celebrating the day the new phone books arrive. But while you’re waiting, we thought we’d bring you another snippet, or outtake, from the Q1 edition (which, rest assured, will be appearing any day now).

One of our features, entitled “Strange Bedfellows,” deals with “unusual” alliances: cross-industry or cross-cultural partnerships that are on the rise in some industries—such as biopharma—and are already business as usual in others—like business process outsourcing.

In the biopharma realm, drugmakers are increasingly looking outside their industry for new partners—both to deal with the ramifications of the patent cliff and the changing economic landscape, and to respond to the needs of patients and health care providers who are looking for better and more efficient health outcomes, rather than just “a pill for a price.”

This was the gist of ASAP Media’s interview with Hans-Peter Frank, CA-AM, head of alliance management for patient franchises at ASAP Global Member Novartis. (Frank also presented on this subject at the ASAP BioPharma Conference last November in Cambridge, Mass., and will be speaking on a related topic at the ASAP Global Summit in early March in Orlando, Fla.) Novartis is currently engaged in various nontraditional alliances, including with hardware and software makers, to provide patients with better health outcomes and health monitoring.

A worthy goal—but for a biopharma company working with a tech firm, the cultural differences can be vast, and bridging them isn’t always easy. So we asked Frank, any advice for those looking to partner outside their own industry?

“First of all, be very transparent,” he said. “We know there are very different approaches in companies [from different industries]. IP and confidentiality are sometimes really an issue. In tech, IP is often about just buying a company for the IP. Those companies are willing to participate in exclusivity of disease areas—but they don’t accept exclusivity of products or IP. I don’t want to be the lawyer who put this together! It can get pretty complicated, so we look for the smoothest way around that.”

And even internally, the challenges presented by these unusual alliances can be substantial. “With these novel collaborations, it’s more than a normal project,” Frank acknowledged. “You have to educate [internally] on a basic level, and bring up the knowledge level. Data privacy, for example, is not a concept they’re aware of [in pharma].”

Check out the Q1 issue of Strategic Alliance Magazine for more of Frank’s thoughts on “strange bedfellows” alliances, and for a glimpse into other industries where novel partnerships are also becoming the norm.

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