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Awards Finalists Describe Complex Joint Venture for a New Vaccine—Part 1

Posted By ASAP Media, Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Merck Vaccines and Sanofi Pasteur are finalists for a 2019 ASAP Alliance Excellence Award to be presented at the upcoming ASAP Global Alliance Summit, “Agile Partnering in Today’s Collaborative Ecosystem,” March 11-13 at the Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The companies built a joint venture for a new drug utilizing a governance model inspired by small, nimble biotech companies to ensure speed and flexibility. The commercialization phase of the new drug has been very successful. ASAP Media asked Jean-Phillipe Proust and Chris Scirrotto of Sanofi Pasteur, and Eric Skjeveland of Merck Vaccines to respond to these questions to help our readers better understand the processes used to develop the very complex joint venture, and why it’s noteworthy for the alliance management community.

Why did you apply for an ASAP Alliance Excellence Award?

We thought the alliance management community would be interested in our experiences bringing two large vaccine companies together, with different organizations and cultures, in order to create an agile European structure able to adjust and adapt to the new market condition in Europe (MCM Vaccine BV). At the same time, these two companies were closing a long-lasting, full-scale joint venture in the same market geographya very complex undertaking that ended up successfully.   

What drug was developed?

VAXELIS is an infant hexavalent combination vaccine that helps to protect against six diseasesdiphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), poliomyelitis, hepatitis B and invasive disease due to H. influenzae type b.  This complex global product has taken more than 15 years to develop and launch in the European Union market. The six antigens in this vaccine are produced and packaged using five different facilities in four countries between EU and North America.   

What best practices did you use to improve alliance management practices and enhance the outcome?

  • Aligned and clear objectives: These were established early on and used as guideposts when making decisions on how the alliance would be structured, the framework of the governance model, and dispute resolution.
  • Trust level needed to improve: We moved from a neutral level of trust following the decision to dismantle the SPMSD joint venture, through several stages of building trust rather quickly.  The MCM joint team is now truly at a partnership level, where we respect the differences in thinking and culture of both organizations. We have a shared vision for VAXELIS, conduct shared planning sessions among those that are assigned to the joint venture, and amicably resolve our differences.
  • Fairness: Partnerships need to be built on a true win-win basis. If during the negotiation one of the parties gets the impression of imbalance, the future and outcomes will be less certain; in a negotiation for a sustainable, long partnership, the goal is to find a balanced compromise.
  • Active sponsorship from senior leadership: Senior leaders are involved not only at the joint steering committee level, but routinely participate in team meetings for the joint venture, etc.  They make a concerted effort to be visible and support the joint venture.
  • Structure and governance: Established an effective and efficient governance framework, including team charters for all governance committees with clear and simplified operating principles, decision making, and escalation procedures. We made the decision to operate and build the partnership with a “biotech spirit” with a dedicated, limited team empowered to make decisions and move quickly.
  • Created a collaborative culture: The partners have shared values and behaviors such as: open, two-way communication among those that are assigned to the joint venture, agreement to disagree respectfully and address issues early, honor and respect of differences in company culture and approach, and operation in a transparent manner with respect to the joint venture.
  • MCM Annual Meeting: Merck Vaccines and Sanofi Pasteur conduct a global MCM annual meeting, which brings together the key staff supporting the joint venture to celebrate past year successes, share lessons learned, and plan for the upcoming year for VAXELIS. A good portion of the meeting time is dedicated to F2F governance meetings for the product.
  • Alliance health checks: These were conducted twice during the first 18 months, which helped us course correct. An important finding on the Merck side was that there were too many people partially involved in the JV, which was creating unnecessary complexity and communication. We streamlined the number of people involved in the alliance and asked for a higher percentage of their time.

See Part 2 of this blog post for further information on the 2019 ASAP Alliance Excellence Awards and the Merck Vaccine and Sanofi Pasteur alliance. And stay tuned for additional awards coverage on the ASAP blog and in the monthly and quarterly Strategic Alliance magazines.

Tags:  Alliance health checks  alliance management  ASAP Alliance Excellence Awards  biotech  Chris Scirrotto  collaborative culture  commercialization phase  dispute resolution  Eric Skjeveland  governance model  Jean-Phillipe Proust  joint venture  Merck Vaccines  negotiation  Sanofi Pasteur 

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