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External Collaboration for Innovation: Bayer’s Key Leadership Role in Alliance Management

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Wednesday, September 13, 2017

External collaboration for innovation has become a red-hot topic in the pharmaceutical industryand a critical practice for success. It was also the central topic during the leadership forum at the 2017 ASAP BioPharma Conference, “Accelerating Life Science Collaborations: Better Partnering, Better Outcomes,” Sept. 13-15 at the Royal Sonesta Boston, Cambridge, Mass. Chandra Ramanathan, Ph.D, vice president & head of the East Coast Innovation Center at Bayer, kicked off the discussion with an overview of Bayer’s approach.  

Call it “East meets West.” Ramanathan’s discussion of building innovative product portfolios through external crowd sourcing and other collaboration approaches occurred on the heels of a dynamic leadership spotlight talk last spring at the ASAP Global Alliance Summit in San Diego, California, “Accelerating Innovation: Partnering Early and Often in the New Era of Cooperation,” led by Chris Haskellhead of the West Coast Innovation Center at Bayer, tucked away in San Francisco’s Mission Bay—who is responsible for Bayer’s CoLaboratory. Following is a recap of ASAP Media’s conversation with Haskell and coverage of his conference session in the spring.

Bayer’s West Coast CoLaborator space is a subdivision of the German healthcare company, which serves as an incubator for fledgling startups working on promising biotech projects. Haskell explained the impetus for Bayer’s focus on external collaboration: Pharma was taking a hard look at its business models, the challenges with the pace of innovation, and how to adapt to and work with the outside world.  “The pharma industry is a failure business. We have to put lots of drugs out to get one that gets to market,” Haskell notes. “We’re spending $2.6 billion per drug to get to marketthat’s an imbalance you sometimes can’t make up with a blockbuster,” he added.

Bayer wanted to harness the advantages of the life sciences ecosystem in Mission Bay, San Francisco, through local collaborations in early-stage research. So in 2012, it opened the CoLaborator, an incubator lab space located at Bayer’s US Innovation Center, which houses the US Science Huba scientific team actively identifying partnerships with academic and biotech researchers. The CoLaborator includes an open lab layout that is designed for a quick start of research activities. The 6,000 square foot lab fosters collaboration among companies who are emerging innovative life science firms. Bayer often lends support through financing some of the project and/or offering access to the expertise of their staff.

“Pharma companies haven’t done great with incubators—it’s hard to innovate in a short length of time. … But now there are 100 startups within 10 minute walk of my office that weren’t there 10 years ago—that’s thanks to incubators,” he said. “The CoLaborator structure isn’t so much experimentation. If it works, everybody wins. If doesn’t, you can’t sell it anywhere else.”

Their partners are selected because their innovations have the potential to be aligned with Bayer internal projects.  But it’s not a requirement that the work of these life science companies matches Bayer’s needs. The CoLaborator tenants are highly independent. The model relies on the flexibility of “strategic leasing,” allowing Bayer to work with these emerging companies that may not be immediate partners. At the same time, there is potential to build further partnership agreements that would share risks and rewards for both partners. Bayer looks for technologies or therapeutics that could have a major impact on its ability to improve the research process. “We consider the future growth and potential of these companies to see how our needs and the product will link together. Within the CoLaborator, the standard lease is two years, but we do not have a fixed timeline," he added.

Early innovators—it’s different than later-stage licensing. Developing trust and the tools you use are different, he then explained. “One thing we did to improve trust was to put people where the partners are—this is the structure of our global innovation and alliances group. We created innovation centers in five different regions to complement the core development in Germany,” he added.

“We hear a lot about trust—the pharma company is suffering a bit of a trust crisis” and politicians and others are certainly beating the drum against big pharma, he noted.  “You really have to work on this well before the deal comes into play and ask, ‘What does an innovator want, and what can you do to help them build trust’” to achieve that goal? He then provided several key suggestions to establish this foundation:

  • When working with smaller partners, be clear what you can’t do, and why you need them.
  • Acknowledge the speed differential when you are moving at different speeds.
  • Create a clear joint definition of success, which is often an iterative process, and then de-risk the process.
  • Have a local interpreter when cultures and processes merge.
  • Run joint test projectswhen they crash and burn, view it not as failure but a   learning opportunity.

“One of the challenges alliance managers have in early innovation partnering is the belief that it’s “not in my job description,” he concluded. “Trust yourself, and keep sticking with it because you will have wins in the end. Know who to go to, de-risk, and build a story. Finally, simple contracts and dialogue risk info leaks. That could happen. This is where trust comes in. … Stay in touch, create support letters for grants, make your network their network. This is not 2007. Get over it. They will come to you first if you’ve built that trust. What has Bayer created? Successive leadership is driving this.”

Stay tuned for more coverage of this topic from the 2017 ASAP BioPharma Conference.

Tags:  Bayer  Chandra Ramanathan  Chris Haskell  CoLaboratory  Innovation  Leadership  network  pharma  startups  strategic leasing 

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ASAP Summit Spotlight Leadership Forum Highlights Exceptional Contributions: Part 3—From Great Platforms to Epiphanies

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Thursday, August 17, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The following is a continuation from Part 2 of the ASAP Summit Spotlight Leadership Forum Q&A Panel session, which took place last March at the 2017 ASAP Global Alliance Summit “Profit, Innovation, and Value for the Part­nering Enterprise,” held in San Diego, Calif. Highlighted on the podium for their exceptional company contributions were Celine Schillinger of Sanofi Pasteur; Chris Haskell of Bayer; Maria Olson of NetApp; and Kevin Hickey of BeyondTrust. The session was moderated by John W. DeWitt, CEO of JW DeWitt Business Communications and publisher and editor of ASAP Media and Strategic Alliance Magazine.  After DeWitt finished his questions, the audience jumped in with their own, one of which is included at the end of this post. 

Describe the greatest epiphany of your career, something that changed your worldview and made you a better executive or leader.

Maria: This was definitely an epiphany: I started working in the supply chain and felt like I was always in the trunk and someone else was driving. I wanted to get in the car. I had more value to give. I then tried product management and was lucky to work for a small division in telecom. I felt like a high tech janitor. And when you try to do everything, you don’t really do anything right to some degree. But in the end, that was all great training ground. My most challenging job, the one I didn’t like the most, was the most beneficial.

Chris: When you do the drug discovery business, 20 to 30 new drugs are approved each year. The more I stepped back, the more I realized my passion was about connecting and empowering rather than being an adventurer and discoverer. I began looking for ways to impact the company, writing strategies on how to create this hub, referring to how to move things along. And advancing the technology to beat cancer I get such joy out of being part of that.

Kevin: I worked for IBM and became one of the glorified gophers for the chairman’s office. Years later, I was sitting in a boardroom seeing a patient system that was broken. It was just so bad. It was a great and fabulous company, but at that point, I realized I wanted to go somewhere smaller.

Maria, FlexPod is a platform. Solutions die very quickly. You created a platform that was able to evolve, and you won an ASAP award several years ago because you took the time to get it right.

Maria: At NetApp, we do it similarly to what Kevin has described [see Part 2 of this blog series]. We step back, ask “what is the value we are delivering,” and hold ourselves to a higher level of thinking.

Celine: I would advocate to go faster and refrain from overthinking. In pharma, every step becomes huge and complicated. It’s as if it feeds itself with its own complexity. We spend more time building than actually doing it. It’s important to realize when perfection is needed, and when it is not.

Audience question from Luna of Belgium: How do you organize this? I understand that purpose, mastery, and a sense of perfection need to be everywhere. But do you create mastery throughout the organization, or do you create the silo for really good professionals? What is the tradeoff between mastery and autonomy? The silo is so natural for pharma.

Chris: Bayer went through a transformation of its alliance structure years ago. There are other parts of the organization in alliance management, and now we are starting to develop best practices and work with them. There are different frameworks within the organization. We’ve also started talking about rolling out trainings that we think are valuable for this transformation.

Maria: I work for companies where alliances are spread out, corporate strategic alliances are all over the map. HP brought the question to a leadership council and surveyed top strategic alliances. At the end of the day, [leadership recognized that] we need to stop having four to five people calling us from your company, and the decision they made was to pick new patterns from a management standpoint. It’s very different to manage everything strategically.

Kevin: It shouldn’t just be executives making decisions. You want to find the right people who have a great viewpoint, such as a systems engineer, and you pull them in. You need to find the knowledge workers to help your collaboration. You have to find the right people. Executives are not looking at all of the details every day.

Celine: There’s often a long debate in companies about quality belonging to the quality department. Actually, quality belongs to everyone who wants to own it. Co-create the purpose. It’s attractive to be co-owned. Anyone who feels they can contribute to the way we work is welcome. Boundaries become less important. What is important is how motivated and connected people are in the organization. Instead of appointing teams, we called for volunteers and asked why they wanted to lead the change initiative. We ended up with a team of 25. The jury, which is made up of half volunteers and half leaders, needed to focus on emotional intelligence and a willingness to help. It’s a peer-to-peer network. People want to make a difference. When you tap into this pool, you achieve miracles.

This concludes ASAP Media’s three-blog series covering the Spotlight Leadership Forum Q&A. You can read Part 1 and Part 2 here.  http://membersstrategicalliances.site-ym.com/blogpost/1143942/ASAP-Blog

Tags:  alliances  Bayer  BeyondTrust  Celine Schillinger  Chris Haskell  frameworks  Kevin Hickey  Maria Olson  NetApp  network  product management  Sanofi Pasteur  strategic alliances 

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ASAP Summit Spotlight Leadership Forum Highlights Exceptional Contributions: Part 1—Inspiring a Movement for Change Within Your Company

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Every day, alliance managers work diligently to advance concepts, innovations, or products for the marketplace: self-driving cars to reduce road hazards and deaths; new drugs to promote healing and lessen suffering; technological breakthroughs to minimize energy use and reduce global warming. ASAP believes these managers deserve to be highlighted for their remarkable accomplishments, which is why the association held a Summit Spotlight Leadership Forum Q&A Panel session last March at the 2017 ASAP Global Alliance Summit “Profit, Innovation, and Value for the Part­nering Enterprise,” Feb. 28-March 2, held in San Diego, San Diego, Calif. The session was moderated by John W. DeWitt, CEO of JW DeWitt Business Communications and publisher and editor of ASAP Media and Strategic Alliance Magazine. Highlighted on the podium for their exceptional company contributions were Celine Schillinger of Sanofi Pasteur; Chris Haskell of Bayer; Maria Olson of NetApp; and Kevin Hickey of BeyondTrust. In Part 1 of this three part series, DeWitt directs the first question to Schillinger, who spearheaded a movement at Sanofi Pasteur that led to cultural changes and a progressive alliance with The Synergist. The win-win partnership also led to receipt of the ASAP Alliances for Social Responsibility Alliance Excellence Award for “Break Dengue.”

Celine, how did you get the inspiration to drive a people’s movement within your company?

Celine: It started with feelings we often don’t talk about in the workplace, such as anger and frustration. That can serve as an impulse to push you to the next level. It can serve to push and challenge the status quo. The first people’s movement started by chance—it was to foster diversity. I had such wonderful talented people around me, and that lack of diversity was affecting the people and the company itself. I thought, “I have got to do something, even if it’s just a small step. If I just complain, it will not go anywhere.” I realized I catalyzed something that no one was addressing. It came as a big surprise—I never thought something like that would happen. It changed my life and career, and I am very grateful for the company that enabled me to do that. It wasn’t easy for them or for me. I know I’ve been a pain in the neck—sometimes we are human, we don’t like to change things that seem to be working. But it’s our role to push and to trigger change. If we don’t do it, no one will do it.

How did you get executive buy in?

Celine: It doesn’t happen overnight, for sure. You have got to focus on your purpose and the ways to reach your purpose. When you start, you don’t have a budget or department, but connections have a value. Look where there are pockets of energy, and have deep conversations about your purpose. If you have deep connections that build up, you become a force. Mastering communications in your marketing will make you unavoidable to leadership. We also did things under the radar. Seek validation. Build connections. The company then will begin to see you as an opportunity. The first reaction was mockery about our being a feminist group. But when we got an award for the company, and then another, they realized we were an opportunity for them to shine. We said: “Welcome. We will be much stronger with you.” And don’t forget to work on yourself.  Be inclusive, be inclusive all the time.

Chris: Your point about having a vision [is valuable]—you can then tailor it to your customer. The [vision] incubator is also a response to frustration. In our case, we went from project manager to partnering. It was so frustrating because the home office couldn’t see the value. We tried to show them that this [vision] they didn’t act on can become valuable. That’s exactly what they don’t want to hear. So you need to create a model with autonomy and control. Create buy in for management in this case so they can see the long-term vision. A CEO at the time gave official buy in. He said, “I don’t know what will come of this. Just don’t hurt the little companies.” I will close with the fact that we had a value proposal that was a four-year plan that highlighted to the community that didn’t know us that we were of value. What we found is that the opposition eventually came back with opportunities to expand this.

Maria: You have to be connected and passionate for your cause. Executives need to know how you believe. Then you have to show them how to get there. That’s when they get confident. If you really want to do a big partnership or alliance, you need to believe in it because, if you don’t, no one else will.

ASAP Media’s coverage of the Summit Spotlight Leadership Forum Q&A continues in Part 2. 

Tags:  alliance  alliance managers  Bayer  Celine Schillinger  Chris Haskell  communications  Maria Olson  NetApp  partnering  partnership  Sanofi Pasteur  win-win partnerships 

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