An Alliance with Strong Bones

Alliance Excellence Award,

An Alliance with Strong Bones: How UCB and Amgen Took EVENITY from Preclinical Stages to Global Market Success over Two Decades

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Friday, April 23, 2021

The year 2019 was a momentous one for the drug EVENITY, the product of a long-standing collaboration between global biopharma institutions Amgen and UCB. That year, the drug for postmenopausal osteoporosis was approved in the United States, the European Union, and Japan—a major feat considering the EU hadn’t approved a product to treat the disease since 2010.

Today, EVENITY’s market penetration is expanding. According to Amgen’s public disclosures, sales of the drug increased 6 percent year-over-year for the fourth quarter of 2020 and 85 percent over the course of the full year.

EVENITY’s appearance in the marketplace is the culmination of a long journey that began 19 years ago and spanned the entire drug life cycle. For its innovative uses of alliance tools and practices and the leadership role played by its alliance team, Amgen and UCB’s EVENITY partnership has been selected as a finalist for a 2021 ASAP Alliance Excellence Award in the Individual Alliance Excellence category.

Good Governance Comes in Threes

It goes without saying that strong governance is necessary to bring a collaboration of this magnitude involving companies of this size to fruition. Amgen and UCB developed a novel three-pronged structure designed to ensure that the appropriate executives were brought in to handle different issues that arose throughout the alliance’s course. It was separated into the following tiers:

  • Formal – The goal of this segment of the committee structure was to facilitate resolutions without using the contract as a hammer. It also developed what the companies called “rapid resolution documents”—side letters, amendments, frameworks, and the like—to update contract terms along the lines of the local regulations of the regions in which this collaboration was operating.

  • Semiformal – This governance layer was charged with maintaining the right balance between the local and regional objectives of the alliance in major markets. These executives were tested during product launches, where they exerted strong influence over global alliance decisions in the midst of very rapid change.

  • Informal – The objective of this element of the governance structure: act upon feedback from the stakeholders on the front lines. These officials would analyze health checks administered to employees in both companies, determine the root cause of festering problems, and implement solutions to rectify the situation. These executives took great pains to illustrate the improvements their proactive measures made along the way.
    “We wanted our governance structure to be flexible and timely, and we emphasized from the outset bringing the right people in from each company to find solutions before they escalated into more significant issues. This was built on the confidence the team developed with the highest levels of senior leadership, which was essential to ongoing progress,” said Brandon Drew, head of the bone mission at UCB.

Staying “Net Present” in the Moment

The Amgen-UCB team utilized a variety of key performance indicators (KPIs) to monitor the alliance practice and the larger alliance team’s effectiveness. It tracked the percentage of decisions that impacted the collaboration that were made by the group, alliance leadership objectives met, and health check performance actions achieved. The joint team developed additional metrics to gauge how much net present value (NPV) the team added to joint program and business development initiatives. These KPIs put some science around how much the group’s efforts added value to global cocreation initiatives and contributed to prelaunch preparation and clinical program development in key markets, among other major company activities.

“As an alliance management team, we approach all of our activities and initiatives with our patients in mind and the goal of adding value that will be reflected in jointly developed program KPIs,” said Nkem Ogbechie, global product general manager at Amgen.

UCB and Amgen also worked tirelessly to make sure that alliance management and project management were in lockstep. The two groups held formal meetings to align the divisions and reduce confusion about roles, which was critical because they were charged with coleading critical alliance and program initiatives. Leaders of the two functions worked hand in hand to create agendas for and lead executive-level governance meetings, resolve conflicts that arose, and evaluate new business development opportunities.

The EVENITY collaboration is competing with the Astellas-Pfizer alliance for Individual Alliance Excellence honors.Registerfor the2021 ASAP Alliance Excellence Awards ceremony, which will be held this coming Tuesday, April 27, from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. EDT, to see which alliance emerges victorious and pay tribute to the most innovative and successful partnerships of 2020.