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When Worlds Converge: Digital Therapeutics Meets Biopharma Alliance Management

Posted By Michael J. Burke, Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Even a year or two ago, the idea of digital therapeutics didn’t stir up a great amount of interest among most participants at ASAP’s BioPharma Conference, according to Mike Leonetti, president and CEO of ASAP. That sort of ambivalence no longer applies, as was evident at the September 23 Leadership Forum that kicked off ASAP’s BioPharma 2019, held Sept. 23–25 in Boston.

            The invitation-only gathering of 20-some biopharma alliance leaders was treated to a glimpse into the future—and a privileged look at a rapidly changing present—by senior executives from two companies that have been fast-tracking prescription digital therapeutics in their own alliance. Alex Waldron, chief strategy officer at Pear Therapeutics, and Joris van Dam, head of digital therapeutics for the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, were introduced by Leonetti and by Brooke Paige, vice president of alliance management at Pear Therapeutics and ASAP’s board chair.

            Waldron and van Dam described digital therapeutics as “software as a therapeutic,” or customer-facing software that helps clinically treat disease. It’s still relatively new, but already has become one of the five modalities of modern medical treatment (small molecule, large molecule, gene, cell, and digital). Whereas traditional biopharma alliances are asset-based partnerships formed on the basis of a molecule, in a partnership around digital therapeutics, the technology product is the asset.

            While we often think of wearable devices when we think about digital therapeutics, perhaps the most common such device is your smartphone. So far Pear and Novartis are experiencing some success around products used to treat depression that occurs with patients who have multiple sclerosis (MS) or schizophrenia, for example.

            Patients’ usage of and familiarity with their own cell phones is a big plus in such treatment, both in terms of access—a phone app is available 24/7, when patients need it, unlike a doctor or psychiatrist—and also adherence to the treatment plan, since the app can remind patients to stick to the program they’re on and help them get going with it again.  Other uses being explored include the treatment of addiction and other types of depression.

            Managing an alliance between a smaller, tech-oriented company and a large pharma company can be challenging, of course—as can any partnership between more traditional biopharma and tech. In this case, Novartis brought its commercial infrastructure, clinical trials expertise, and scientific strengths to the table; Pear brought technology, manufacturing, and ownership of the pharmacovigilance aspect, i.e., safety and data reporting.

            As part of the forum, the 20-plus alliance leaders were asked several questions and polled on their responses. Among the highlights:

  • More than 50 percent said their company had at least one or two digital/nontraditional alliances that were being operated as managed partnerships.
  • More than 50 percent said someone other than alliance management or business development managed these partnerships at their companies.
  • More than 80 percent said they expected their companies to increase the number of these digital/nontraditional partnerships in the next two years.
  • Nearly 70 percent reported the biggest challenges of such partnerships included finding a common language, the lack of alliance management skills, and cultural differences.
  • Fifty percent of respondents felt that these partnerships should be managed by the alliance management group in their organization—but nearly as many acknowledged that they don’t currently have the bandwidth to do so.

            In the roundtable discussion portion of the forum, participants came up with a number of elements or processes in traditional biopharma alliance management that would need to be revised, modified, leveraged, or speeded up to meet the needs of digital and nontraditional partnerships and to take advantage of the potential for innovation. These included:

  • Increasing the frequency of governance meetings and check-ins
  • Speeding up decision-making processes and structures and including more senior people in them
  • Educating senior management and managing stakeholders to ensure senior-level support and alignment
  • Hiring more tech-savvy alliance managers
  • Having more people on board who are well versed in IP issues and the regulatory environment
  • Needing to trust the partner in ways beyond what has been common in the past—including continuous data sharing
  • Hiring more disruptors and fewer people who are invested in protecting “the way we do things here”
  • Establishing clear roles and responsibilities from the outset of the alliance, as early as the kickoff (if not before)
  • Understanding each other better, given the different cultures of tech and biopharma companies

A window into the future indeed, and certainly there will be much more to come on this subject as the numbers of digital and nontraditional partnerships in biopharma continue to increase. And as ASAP BioPharma Conference 2019 continues, stay tuned for more of the latest coverage!

Tags:  Alex Waldron  alliance managers  ASAP BioPharma Conference  clinical trials expertise  commercial infrastructure  digital therapeutics  Joris van Dam  Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research  Pear Therapeutics  scientific strengths  software as a therapeutic 

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ASAP Announces Hiring of New Senior Editorial Consultant and Magazine Editor

Posted By Mike Leonetti, CSAP, Monday, August 26, 2019

Over the past few months, there have been a lot of exciting things happening at ASAP, including moving to our new offices in Norwood, Mass., the formation of a new editorial team, and more changes either under way or still to come. Just this month I was very pleased to announce to our members that we have enlisted the services of Michael J. Burke to be Senior Editorial Consultant to ASAP as well as Editor in Chief of Strategic Alliance Quarterly.

Michael is probably already known to some of you as the former editor of Strategic Alliance Magazine, and through his work editing The ASAP Handbook of Alliance Management. Of late Michael has been working closely with us to update the Handbook with two brand-new supplements: a guide to IT partnering, just completed and due out soon, and a guide to biopharma alliances, which will appear later this fall.

In addition to bringing Michael on board, we are currently putting together a new team of writers and editors whose goal is to continue to provide the ASAP member community with the kind of useful, up-to-the-minute content they need to manage the many increasingly complex collaborations they’re in charge of every day. Michael has already been meeting with our editorial committee as well as ASAP board members and staff to plan upcoming issues of the magazine in addition to all of ASAP’s other content.

We’re thrilled to have Michael working with us again, and he’s made it clear he’s pretty happy about it too! The ASAP community can look forward, as we do, to many more months of articles, insights, interviews, blog posts, and other great editorial content—in addition to our conferences, webinars, events, and other programming—from Michael and our new editorial team.

Stay tuned for more exciting news in the coming months as ASAP continues to grow our team and community in order to better serve our wonderful members. And feel free to get in touch with Michael with your ideas for articles, blog posts, and other editorial content. He can be reached at mburke@strategic-alliances.org

Tags:  a guide to biopharma alliances  editor in chief  Guide to IT partnering  Michael J. Burke  Strategic Alliance Quarterly  The ASAP Handbook of Alliance Management 

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A Lesson From the Whiz Kids: Change and Teams— ‘An Inevitable Combination’

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Monday, July 22, 2019

My father, who recently passed away, worked for Ford Motor Company in its heyday. A 1950  graduate of Harvard Business School and a former Marine in World War II and the Korean War, he started working at  Ford in 1953 and eventually worked under Ford President Robert McNamara, who later became the longest-serving secretary of defense in United States history under Presidents  John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.

 

Ford Motor Company was losing millions in the post-  WWII era, but turned a corner through innovative production and management. Seeking new ways to succeed in a time of rapid change (sound familiar?), the company engaged in a unique partnership with a group of United States Air Force officers. Ford would provide the young men just out of the military with jobs and, in turn, the former officers would revamp the company. Disparagingly dubbed the “Quiz Kids” by fellow employees for their youthful questioning, they renamed themselves the “Whiz Kids.” As a manager in finance, production programming, sales, marketing, personnel, and technical and transportation operations, my father worked under their guidance to help reorganize Ford’s financial framework, redefine corporate culture, and contribute to automotive innovation.

 

After my father’s memorial service, I pored over the books in his library. You can tell a lot about a person from the books he or she reads. Based on the collective mix, he pursued self-education to the end, especially in the areas of business, history, leadership—and the art of fly fishing. The mix included tomes such as Doris Kearns Goodwin’s The Bully Pulpit and Nigel Hamilton’s The Mantle of Command. But what really caught my eye was an unassuming slip of a book: The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High–Performance Organization, by Jon R. Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith, Harvard Business School Press, 1993. As I paged through, I found only one sentence in the entire book underlined. In the chapter “Teams and Major Change: An Inevitable Combination,” the final sentence on Page 211 was highlighted: “It is no accident, then, that every single major change effort we know about has depended on teams.”

 

Through landmark business reconstruction and major wars my father had significant life experience leading and participating in successful teams. He must have come away from those experiences with an understanding of how major change is conjoined with well-organized teamwork. At age 93, the concept of digital transformation was a mystery to him, but the strategy necessary for such radical transformation was very familiar: Major change requires visionary leadership, well-orchestrated collaboration, and flexible innovation.

 

History can teach us a lot about successful collaboration. That connection came through at a ASAP BioPharma Conference in a session on “Alliance Management  Learnings from Great Leaders,” led by Harm-Jan Borgeld, head of alliance management at Merck KGaA;  David Thompson, CSAP, chief alliance officer at Eli Lilly and Company; Steven Twait, CSAP, vice president, alliance and integration management at AstraZeneca. The three alliance professionals probed questions about the “Big Three” WWII alliance led by Winston Churchill,  Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Joseph Stalin—and how history’s lessons learned relate to today’s strategic alliances.

 

When designed and executed well, alliances can resolve conflict, innovate solutions, win wars, and rejuvenate flagging companies. Collaboration can even streamline services in the public sector and define the  workplace cultures of successful 21st century companies like Jazz Pharmaceuticals. For my father’s generation and for ours, it still comes down to inspired leaders and engaged executives who grapple with change by fostering a culture of teamwork and collaboration— and embrace partners along their journey forward. My dad would recognize this approach as “an inevitable combination.” 

Tags:  Alliances  AstraZeneca  Collaboration  David Thompson  Eli Lilly and Company  Harm-Jan Borgeld  Innovation  Jazz Pharmaceuticals  Merck KGaA  Steve Twait 

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The Sound of Success

Posted By Michael Leonetti, CSAP, Wednesday, July 10, 2019

In a past issue of Strategic Alliance Monthly, we asked Bruce Cozadd, cofounder and chief executive of Jazz  Pharmaceuticals, Could Music Be the Secret Sauce of Compelling Collaborative Leaders?

 

“This concept of individual excellence, but it’s all about how you play as a group, really resonates to me as a management philosophy,” explained Cozadd, not merely a scientist, but also a classically trained musician who routinely plays all requests on the company piano while surrounded by  singing employees. “It’s a playful, energetic theme that fits perfectly with alliance management,” chimed Ann Kilrain, Jazz’s head of alliance management. “We recognize that while individuals are able to accomplish much as individuals,

we create something much greater together.”

 

The musician-CEO and his CAO continue their remarkable riff on the topic of collaborative leadership, discussing how leaders model their  organization’s values and specifically about how alliance leaders can impact the culture of an organization—change it, grow it, and help it prosper. Talk about resonance. In my observation, the best partnering companies have leaders who display the qualities Bruce Cozadd projects. And the best alliance executives model transparent leadership with partners and bring that same style to their internal leadership and alliance team culture.

 

Cozadd reminds me of my former CEO and the straightforward model I developed when I was his alliance leader.

I call it The Four Cs of Alliance Leadership:

  • Communication
  • Culture
  • Collaboration
  • Compromise

Communication. And I mean all the time. Overcommunication is the name of the game. But remember, as the late Stephen Covey taught, “Seek first to understand.” Every day you need to ask yourself, in your internal leadership role, are you seeking to understand in the way you would with your partner? Then, given that understanding, are you providing the constant, effective communication required to be understood?

 

Culture. My CEO used to tell me, “Don’t lose your soul.” He wasn’t discussing matters of faith, rather, of culture. He defined culture as what made our company great. Culture eats everything—breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But it has to be good culture—most of us have struggled uphill to partner when we work in the opposite kind of corporate culture. In a good culture, everyone is respected, not just the boss; everyone, including the boss, is accountable, expected to be open, honest, trustworthy.

 

Collaboration. That’s what we do with partners—but are you demonstrating and practicing a partner mindset within your own organization? Again, not easy. You may be criticized, you may be challenged, you may be asked who do you work for—us or them? But when you break through—when collaborative leadership begins to become part of your culture, supported by your CEO— you’re going to be wildly successful with your partners.

 

Compromise. True leaders model, every day, the ability to compromise without abdicating. Never compromise your goal. Instead, seek greatness, but understand the solution you define together will be the solution that will make you successful. You have to define it together, with your colleague or your partner, which means you have to compromise.

 

Notice that “Command” doesn’t appear in my Four C’s of Alliance Leadership. Any enduring leader knows how to command, but great partnering organizations, and great companies, get great results because people truly invest, not because they’re told what to do. Partners work the same way, as Cozadd recognizes.

 

“When we start discussions with a potential partner,” he explains in this issue, “my comment to our team is, ‘If we’re successful, we’re going to end up working with those people on the other side of the table. Let’s start treating them from the first time we meet them with respect, transparency, honesty. No hide-the-ball, no misrepresentation of our interests. They should come out with a high degree of trust in everyone. It has to be the whole team.’”

 

Call it conducting the collaborative symphony—or, simply, the sound of success. 

Tags:  Alliance Leadership  Bruce Cozadd  Collaboration  Communication  Compromise  Culture  Jazz Pharmaceuticals  Music  Resonance  Strategic Alliances  The Four Cs 

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Discovery across Sectors—and Generations

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Monday, July 8, 2019

Academic Partnering Gives Industry a Chance to Magnify Discovery—and Foster the Personal and Career Growth of Millennials

 

One of the benefits of academic collaboration is that industry has the opportunity to foster the personal and career growth of millennials. The academic collaboration article in Strategic Alliance Magazine highlights the Johns Hopkins University-MedImmune Scholars Program. We need more of these types of academic collaborations to support innovation, and also the young minds so eager to engage in finding the next great breakthrough for society. During an ASAP Global Alliance Summit Keynote Speaker Alex Dickinson, senior vice president of strategic initiatives at Illumina, has pointed out, innovation has the power to lead to the end of disease. Are we ready for that kind of transformation?

 

I was reminded of the need to find ways that industry can engage millennials in innovation when my daughter and I swapped articles over the weekend. A technology buff with a gift for writing, she was interested in the advances and inventions noted at the beginning of the academic collaboration cover story. She also found the accompanying interview with Star Trek: The Next Generation writer and gaming aficionado Lee Sheldon intriguing, because he instructs a generation of millennials born and bred on futuristic worlds where technology can teach the joy of progress through teamwork and collaboration.

 

As I looked over my daughter’s essay, I marveled at how our work intertwined. She had selected the theme of “discovery” for this semester’s English class with the task of relating it to each book she reads. Her assignment was to relate discovery to Ayn Rand’s Anthem. My assignment for this issue of the magazine was to probe the value of discovery in relation to academic collaboration and industry.

 

“Discovery’s everywhere. It is fueled by the desire to learn and demands the yearning to grow. The uncovering of a new fascination is the manifestation of discovery. This love for learning is cherished and leads one to bigger and larger opportunities for growth; for without discovery one would not be introduced to areas where growth is needed,” she wrote. “Anthem brings to light the impact of discovery in societies, and shows that without it, one cannot advance or improve.”

 

The protagonist in Anthem is Equality 7-2521, an intelligent, non-conforming thinker who has been relegated to the career of street sweeping. Educating himself secretly by candlelight, he reinvents electricity during a moment of inspiration. Electricity was banned to keep the masses under control, but Equality 7-2521 realizes the revolutionary potential of his discovery if turned into an invention and manufactured because it would make life easier and also could foster other inventions, furthering societal growth. He takes the reinvention to the World Council of Scholars, the so-called greatest thinkers from around the world. But the government system has sapped them of their creativity, consensus-building, and collaborative abilities on even the simplest of innovations. Equality 7-2521 is then punished for his efforts to think out of the box and runs away.

 

“Discovery is the secret ingredient for the progression of a person or society. Without discovery, there would not be the realization that there could or needs to be improvement,” my daughter concluded. “The challenge to break free from other’s restrictions or our own is a daily struggle. When we transcend personal limitation and government obstruction, our capability to grow increases.”

 

While innovation needs some government limitations in place, such as safety and ethical guidelines, excessive restriction goes against the grain in human nature, as my daughter points out. Discovery, innovation, and manufacturing are an innate and necessary component of a healthy society. Clearly, academia is a seedbed for ideas. If nurtured properly with appropriate creative and financial resources, and combined with collaborative zeal, it can result in a cornucopia of benefits to industry and society. Many millennials are waiting in the wings for the opportunity to engage in discovery provided by a well-designed industry-academic program. It’s well worth considering as part of your overall alliance management strategy. 

Tags:  Collaboration  Forward Thinking  Millennials  Strategic Alliances  Technological Benefits 

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