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‘Harnessing More Brainpower’ Through New Drug Discovery Partnering Models—and Problem Solving an Industry Challenge (Part One)

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Friday, September 22, 2017

“When you harness brainpower, new ideas emerge,” Swati Prasad succinctly stated during the panel discussion “Strategic Perspectives on Emerging Alliance Drug Discovery Models” at the 2017 ASAP BioPharma Conference “Accelerating Life Science Collaborations: Better Partnering, Better Outcomes” at the Royal Sonesta Boston, Cambridge, Mass. USA. The senior manager of business development and scientific alliances at Charles River Laboratories (CRL) in Wilmington, Mass., was a participant in a dynamic panel discussion on the persistent challenges the drug discovery industry faces due to costly regulatory, business, and scientific limitations. Prasad manages drug discovery alliances and strategic partnerships at CRL to increase revenues, penetrate markets, and strengthen discovery and innovation.

Joining her were Mary Lou Bell of Nimbus Therapeutics and Charles McOsker of BioMotiv to discuss how alliance managers are adapting partnering models to address the persistent problem of early drug development gaps. Both companies are collaborating with CRL in novel ways to leverage innovative partnership opportunities. The panel plumbed the question: “How can alliance managers take the lead and design strategies for drug discovery/development models to leverage new players, such as non-traditional VCs, CROs/CMOs, and patient advocacy groups?”

Following is Part One of ASAP Media’s coverage of this panel discussion.

Mary Lou: We are about six months into our relationship with CRL. It has been fun on both sides to help individual members of the team think in new ways. We have a joint project team, biology, and chemistry. We are not just trying to have integration across CRL but across our two companies that lets us help CRL integrate their new acquisitions. We know how hard it is to assimilate. Nimbus is a small biotech. The IP [intellectual property] are the family jewels for us. We have a carefully structured strategic partnership, and what we have done is an arrangement that is very milestone-driven and has extra awards for CRL while also benefitting Nimbus. We are sharing the success and failure while also knowing that lots of programs fail.

Charles: More often than not, drug discovery at this stage fails because it’s a highly risky business. The emerging trend is to solve the problem with nontraditional accelerators that can commit resources. It’s very difficult to get continued research funding in this industry. It’s hard to get seed money because pharma won’t look at you. So we partner very early with academic PIs [principal investigators]. These are not people handing something over and then going away. They are partners. We put our arms around that PI, and we hold them close.  What you license in the end is likely to be patents, chemical matter, etc., but what really sells to a partner is a deep understanding of the biology. Having the PI and founder fully engaged is critical. The primary need is to have a well-validated target.

There’s more to come in Part Two of ASAP Media’s coverage of the 2017 ASAP BioPharma Conference panel discussion exploring “Strategic Perspectives on Emerging Alliance Drug Discovery Models.”

Tags:  alliance managers  BioMotiv  Charles McOsker  Charles River Laboratories  Drug Discovery  Mary Lou Bell  Nimbus Therapeutics  small biotech  strategic partnerships  Swati Prasad 

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