BioPharma Conference Speaker to Outline the Intangible Elements That Can Derail an Alliance

Posted By: Jon Lavietes BioPharma Conference,

Every well-managed alliance has formal procedures, processes, and governance and rules of engagement to keep stakeholders at each partner company engaged, informed, and working toward the partnership’s “North Star.” However, although this concrete structure is absolutely necessary for the success of any collaboration, alliance managers also have to keep their eye on many abstract elements of a relationship if they are to keep a partnership on track.

“A lot of what people talk about during [partnership] conferences is what I’d call the ‘nuts and bolts’ of alliance management—governance, etc. That’s great because it’s necessary, but it’s not sufficient [in and of itself],” said Jim Mullen, executive chairman of the board at Editas Medicine. “A lot of these [partnerships] get derailed for many other reasons. For example, the guys who cut the deal left the company, so there’s not a sponsor. The alignment of the companies changes over time.”

On the final day of the 2022 ASAP BioPharma Conference later this month, Mullen, who has taken part in hundreds of alliances over the course of his three-decade-plus career, will talk about these less-tangible but critical factors that can dictate how smooth an alliance will run and to what degree it will achieve what it set out to accomplish in his keynote presentation “Beyond Process and Governance: Critical Factors to Consider in Constructing and Managing Alliances.”

Off Kilter: Asymmetries Steer Alliances to the Bermuda Triangle

And make no mistake, the list of things that can potentially change over time is innumerable, particularly over the course of pharmaceutical collaborations, which typically span over a decade—“programs change direction, they change priority, they [start to] mean different things to different partners than perhaps they meant at the moment that the deal was constructed,” said Mullen, listing a few common ones.  

Mullen will also run through inherent “asymmetries” between partners that can ground a collaboration to a halt if they are not sufficiently addressed.  

“These asymmetries could be in knowledge, impact, size, importance of the alliance to each one of the partners, what they are actually trying to accomplish with the alliance,” he explained. 

Even some of those tangible elements, such as the contract and or the agreed-upon escalation processes, can spawn more subtle speedbumps that can set your alliance on course for what Mullen called the alliance “Bermuda Triangle.”

“Decision rights aren’t clear, there’s not a clear dispute resolution, there’s no way to actually terminate the deal inside the contract,” Mullen noted, before broadening the list of things that can have a big impact on an alliance to include “people, technology, and competitive framework.”

Taking a Step Back: What Does It All Mean?  

As part of his address, Mullen will dispense some tips for detecting these changes and how alliance managers should handle them as they drive their partnerships forward.   

“As a program, project, or alliance is unfolding over time, things will change. [Alliance managers must] be able to take a couple of steps back as they’re changing and think strategically. What does that mean to the alliance? What does it mean to the company I represent? What does it potentially mean for the company on the other side?” said Mullen.

The 2022 ASAP BioPharma Conference will take place Sept. 28–30 at the Hyatt Regency in Boston. More and more alliance professionals of all experience levels representing a variety of biopharma outlets are signing up to attend each week. Register today to get great insight from and network with some of the industry and profession’s most knowledgeable practitioners and consultants.