Be the Change: How Can Biopharma Alliance Practices Adjust to New, Complex Types of Partnerships?

Posted By: Jon Lavietes Global Alliance Summit, Member Resources,

There are certain evergreen principles for building a new alliance management division or completely remodeling an existing one. New alliance practice heads have to understand the company’s main objectives and then start small and invest in a few partnerships that align to those strategic imperatives. They need to fill out their staff by hiring from the top down, and they must get to know other department leaders in order to understand how partners can help them meet the aforementioned company goals—not to mention secure additional budget and resources. (See “Building an Alliance Practice from the Ground Up,” Strategic Alliance Quarterly, Q4 2021.)

Specialized Knowledge Is the Prized Asset

But in the pharmaceutical industry, changes are requiring a different approach to organizing an alliance management practice. The emergence of new types of partnerships (e.g., digital, platform, and cell therapies) is introducing new requirements for alliance functions and the people who carry out their duties. It’s a brave new world as compared to the days when most collaborations were centered around traditional individual drug candidates.

“It’s no longer managing an alliance around a simple asset. Now we must rely on alliance managers to be more specialized and strategic. In order to do that, they have to increasingly get familiar with the specific domains that they are working in,” said Adam Kornetsky, principal at Vantage Partners.

At the 2023 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, Kornetsky will lead a discussion of how alliance leaders are reorganizing their practices and changing the makeup of their staffs in response to these changes in a panel titled “Designing, Building, and Scaling an Alliance Management Function.” He will be joined by a group that collectively brings years’ worth of experience leading alliance programs, including:

  • Katherine Ellison, CA-AM, head of alliance management at Illumina,
  • Jarrod Midboe, director of clinical affairs and vendor alliance management at Upsher-Smith Laboratories, and
  • Cindy Warren, vice president of Janssen Business Development, neuroscience, Johnson & Johnson Innovation. 

“We’re Here”: Change Is in the Present, Not Just the Forecast 

“Our panelists will be representing different profiles of pharma/biotech groups. Each of their alliance portfolios look and feel a little different in terms of the types of partnerships that they seek,” said Kornetsky, who added that they will “talk about the past, the present, and their projections for the future.”

But make no mistake, the increasing complexity of these new alliances is today’s reality. Kornetsky and his panelists will explain to attendees that these dynamics aren’t part of next year’s forecast; the climate has already changed.

“A portion of that evolution has taken place. We’re here,” noted Kornetsky. “We’re hoping to reflect specifically on what has changed—not what’s going to change. As a result, how are our very experienced heads of alliance management that will be on this panel thinking about running their functions differently, whether that is how they are structured, the profile of individuals that are needed, as well as the role that they play within the organization?” 

Scaling to New Levels—and Industries

As companies continue to ask alliance management divisions to orchestrate more partnerships with the same or fewer resources (see “How Are You Doing? And How Are WE Doing?”  Strategic Alliance Monthly, January 2021), the panelists will reveal “how to scale these new ways of working to be able to support multiple alliances,” according to Kornetsky. “You need to have operating models in place that allow that. 

Attendees from other industries will be able to apply some of the panelists’ tips to their practices, which in all likelihood are also experiencing similar deep changes.

“Even if you’re not in the pharma/biotech industry, learning how pharma alliance management is evolving to keep up with the changing landscape certainly will provide lessons and promote learning in their roles,” said Kornetsky.

Register for the 2023 ASAP Global Alliance Summit now to catch “Designing, Building, and Scaling an Alliance Management Function,” as well as other panels on academia-industry partnerships and how to build and leverage diverse alliance teams.