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Pharma Alliance Leaders Making Adjustments to a Virtual, Stay-at-Home World

Posted By Michael J. Burke, Tuesday, April 28, 2020

During the COVID-19 crisis, it’s been heartening to see how many pharmaceutical companies—including a representative number of ASAP members—have stepped up their efforts to work toward vaccines and medicines to treat the virus, including partnering with one another and with government to speed up the processes of research and development, all while trying to keep regular manufacturing and supply operations going so that lifesaving drugs continue to reach patients who need them.

But as is true for all of us, the coronavirus has thrown significant obstacles in pharma companies’ path as well: Almost everyone is working from home, supply chains have been interrupted, sales reps can’t see physicians, and some companies in the biopharma ecosystem are already feeling the pain of financial distress.

So how are pharma alliance management groups coping with COVID? How are their teams communicating internally, reaching out to partners, and moving projects forward in the face of these hurdles?

Different Times, Different Strategies

That was the subject of an April 21 ASAP Netcast Webinar, “Alliance Management Practices in a Virtual World for Pharmaceutical Executives.” The four panelists were among the crème de la crème of big-pharma alliance leaders: Harm-Jan Borgeld, CSAP, PhD, MBA, vice president and head of alliance management for Merck Healthcare KGaA; Mark Coflin, CSAP, MBA, vice president and head of global alliance management at Takeda; David Thompson, CSAP, chief alliance officer at Eli Lilly and Company; and Steve Twait, CSAP, vice president of alliance and integration management at AstraZeneca. The webinar was moderated by Michael Leonetti, CSAP, president and CEO of ASAP.

As Leonetti noted at the outset, “We are in very different times, and different times require different strategies.” Accordingly, the four alliance leaders shared their strategies and thinking in a number of areas, from keeping their teams humming along internally to communicating with partners to monitoring supply chain and manufacturing issues.

Thompson observed that we’re currently living through a “worldwide inflection point,” a phenomenon not seen “since probably the 1930s and ’40s, where the entire world is experiencing something at the same time.” Twait concurred: “This is my 20th year in the alliance management space and I can say I have never seen anything quite like this before. COVID-19 is providing us with challenges I don’t think any of us ever anticipated.”

Buddies, Backups, and Break Times

Borgeld said one of the first things he and his colleagues at Merck in Germany did was to look at what would happen if alliance managers could not fulfill their duties, for whatever reason. So they created “a buddy system, where every alliance manager has a backup—even me. A member of the leadership team is my backup in case I would not be able to function. Also the partners have been informed of this backup system, so they know there’s always someone to contact.”

In this new world, alliance executives and their teams have had to figure out how to hold internal meetings virtually—and how often and for how long—how to carry out alliance governance, and how to interface with partners when everyone is working remotely and none of these activities can be done in person. Some of what they’ve done has changed over time already—going from two meetings a week down to one, for example, having shorter meetings, or making the meetings last only 45 minutes instead of an hour, both to give people a much-needed break that they might have formerly used to walk down the hall and “grab a cup of coffee,” as Twait put it, but also to allow for some “unstructured chat” time, in Thompson’s words.

In addition, half-day or full-day meetings across multiple time zones around the world have in many cases been condensed down to one- or two-hour videoconferences, which allows greater focus and prevents “virtual meeting burnout” while being “respectful of time zones,” as Coflin phrased it—especially important when partners and/or team members may be spread out across the globe.

There’s good and bad in this virtual situation, according to Thompson. “The upside of course is there’s a time savings, the downside is you’re not getting that human interaction,” he said. “You have to be more cognizant of how you’re going to structure your agendas for the meeting to get the most out of it.” Another positive that Twait has observed is that videoconferences today give us a window into each other’s lives—including children, pets, decorations in home offices or other rooms—and these help to build “interpersonal trust” in a way that wasn’t necessarily done pre-COVID.

Borgeld emphasized that while some of the same problems and issues arose before the virus took hold, now it’s even more critical to anticipate and address them, whether it’s coworkers who are trying to multitask and get work done while managing children at home, or partners who may be experiencing financial distress. In the latter case, he recommended, “Seek the dialogue early—it’s not important that you open the books. Focus on the alliance itself: what do we need to do? Come early, discuss it, and try to find a solution.”

Problems, Solutions, and Opportunities

Solutions can be hard to come by, especially where coronavirus is concerned, but more than one of the panelists mentioned the resourceful, flexible cooperation and collaboration between various biopharma organizations, leading to more partnerships and, hopefully, effective treatments and vaccines down the road.

“One of the things that’s very encouraging is the number of partnerships that are springing up all over,” said Twait. “Not just between pharma and pharma—we’re all working together, and many of those interests are around COVID. I’m seeing pharma to biotech, pharma to academia, pharma and others to nonprofits—partnerships of all types.”

Coflin backed up that assessment: “In this current environment where we’re looking for solutions on an urgent basis for humanity, there’s a lot of external innovations and partnerships that are rapidly forming, amongst companies, together with regulatory authorities, NIH, you name it. Everybody’s pulling together to find some solutions.”

Twait emphasized viewing the crisis as a chance to potentially change how things are being done for the better. “I try to look for the opportunities that are coming out of this, and it feels like now is the perfect time,” he explained. “What COVID is allowing us to do is to ask the question: Can we move faster, and are there ways to accelerate? It’s a great opportunity to use this burning platform and the urgency that we have to really challenge inefficiencies and change some of those internal and external processes.”

Shining Examples

Thompson advised looking at alliances with an eye toward contractual obligations, as well as the risks that may be triggered if those are left unfulfilled. “I would really recommend to everybody,” he said, “to do a thorough read of each contract: to go back through and with the lens of the business, human, and legal uncertainties and risks, foresee what’s in the contract, identify and begin to engage with the partners in a discussion now. To me that has been one of the most helpful exercises we’ve done, and also has allowed us to engage in productive discussions, because we’re identifying early the things that the contracts are pointing to. Regardless if you’re in or out of our industry, anybody who’s got a contractual relationship with anybody, that is worth doing.”

Coflin also mentioned being aware of potential supply issues, which can be dicey at a time like this. “The supply continuity is critical to the patient,” he acknowledged. “These are lifesaving medicines in some cases. So we look very carefully at the supply chain, and have since the very beginning of COVID-19, looking not only at the current inventory but also…where it’s sourced from—in some cases China, [or] Italy, and others where we’ve run into a very challenging situation with logistics. The amount of flights is less than it used to be, including cargo, so it is something that requires constant evaluation of risk and constant discussion with our partners.”

Asked for final thoughts, Borgeld gave this exhortation: “Focus on your team. Make [it] so that they can shine in this difficult environment. It’s an environment where there are challenges, and that has to be recognized. Focus on the team, make sure that the team feels that [its] needs are addressed.”

After the four panelists had answered a number of questions, both from Leonetti and the large audience sitting in on the webinar, Leonetti thanked them for sharing their insights and experiences. “You are a shining example of our community, our willingness to collaborate with each other, and our willingness to help share best practices that ultimately make us better partners and better future partners,” he said. “I can’t thank you all enough for bringing this forward and helping to keep our ASAP community alive during these virtual times.”

Tags:  academia  Alliance Leaders  alliance manager  AstraZeneca  best practices  biotech  COVID-19  David Thompson  Eli Lilly and Company  Harm-Jan Borgeld  manufacturing  Mark Coflin  Merck Healthcare KGaA  partnerships  Pharma  Pharmaceutical Executives  Steve Twait  supply chain  Takeda  virtual 

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Making Adjustments: ASAP Global Alliance Summit Now in June!

Posted By Michael Leonetti, CSAP, Monday, March 9, 2020

We’ve all had the experience of an unexpected event that suddenly threw a wrench into our alliances or our lives. Depending on the nature of the event, its magnitude, and how close to home it hits, we generally do our best to understand how the landscape has changed, adjust to the implications, make accommodations, and move forward. Reality may defy our hopes and expectations, but we pick up the pieces, dust ourselves off, and keep getting up in the morning amid the now-altered environment.

So it is with the coronavirus, or COVID-19, whose effects worldwide have already proven serious. Our hearts go out to all those who have been directly affected by this virus, especially the families of those who have died from it around the globe. In addition, this contagious disease—and the fear of it—has already had a significant economic impact, including declines in business and vacation travel and the cancellation or postponement of a number of conventions, conferences, and trade shows in various industries. Most organizations have been forced to respond in some way, whether to shift events to alternative dates or from physical to virtual, to curtail travel to safeguard their people, or to try to limit the damage to their bottom line. Or all of the above.

We at ASAP have faced these challenges as well, resulting in the difficult decision to reschedule our Global Alliance Summit, which had been scheduled for next week, to June 23–25 in Tampa, Florida. In the great scheme of things this move may barely register, but for a member organization like ours, as you can imagine, it’s a big deal. Shifting the Summit to new dates has required a huge and immediate lift on the part of ASAP staff and board, which is ongoing as I write this.

The good news is, the show will go on! I’m very happy that we were able to secure the original conference venue, the Renaissance Tampa International Plaza Hotel, for our late-June dates. I’m even more pleased to report that at present, nearly 75 percent of our presenters, panelists, and moderators have confirmed that they’ll be there.

What this means is that we’ll still have a terrific program, as planned—a program that, as always, includes presentations by some of the alliance and partnering profession’s best and brightest minds and leading lights, including these:

  • A keynote presentation by Steve Steinhilber, global vice president, ecosystems and business development, at Equinix: “Creating Alliances and Digital Ecosystem Capabilities in an Increasingly Platform Enabled and Interconnected World.” Steve ran alliances at Cisco for a number of years, and while there authored the influential book Strategic Alliances: Three Ways to Make Them Work (2008). He was also among those interviewed for our Q1 2020 cover story in Strategic Alliance Quarterly on the rise and far-reaching effects of ecosystems in nearly every industry, and his insights into this important and growing area are sure to be valuable and applicable to any industry.
  • A fascinating panel moderated by Adam Kornetsky of Vantage Partners titled “Big Pharma M&A and Alliance Portfolios: What’s at the End of the Rainbow?” This interactive discussion will feature panelists including Mark Coflin, CSAP, vice president and head of global alliances at Takeda Pharmaceuticals; Dana Hughes, vice president of integration management and alliance management at Pfizer; and Jeffrey C. Hurley, senior director, GBD global alliance lead at Takeda. These longtime ASAP members will share their recent M&A experiences, provide insights into how alliance portfolios have been managed through the transaction process, and engage participants in sharing additional perspectives critical for unlocking and maximizing the full value of an alliance portfolio.
  • A presentation by Dan Rippey, director of engineering for Microsoft’s One Commercial Partner program, and Amit Sinha, chief customer officer and cofounder of WorkSpan, called “How the Microsoft Partner-to-Partner Program Is Disrupting the Way Technology Companies Are Leveraging the Power of Ecosystems for Business Growth, Customer Acquisition, and Gaining a Competitive Advantage.” With the rise of ecosystems has come the increasing deployment of partner-to-partner (P2P) programs, and Microsoft’s may be the largest on the planet, connecting partners directly with each other to deliver value to customers without Microsoft’s intervention. Powered by WorkSpan Ecosystem Cloud, this program increases profitability by selling solutions from one or more of Microsoft’s partners, achieving faster time-to-market by leveraging prebuilt joint solutions, closing larger deals, and reaching more customers by co-selling with other Microsoft partners for a bigger joint pipeline. This new model of partnering has wide applicability and Dan and Amit’s description of how it works is a must-hear.
  • Another terrific panel moderated by Jan Twombly, president of The Rhythm of Business, called “Biopharma Commercial Alliance Management Challenges.” Panelists will include Brooke Paige, CSAP, ASAP board chair and former vice president of alliance management at Pear Therapeutics; and David S. Thompson, CSAP, chief alliance officer at Eli Lilly and Company. In the long life of a successful biopharma alliance, the commercialization phase brings its own particular challenges and problems. This panel promises to be a lively discussion of such topics as how alliance managers deliver value in a commercial alliance, considerations for driving alignment in local geographies and at a corporate level, aspects of alliance governance to get right to maximize value, and much more.

I’m not indulging in hyperbole when I say that these are just a very few of the highlights. Again,  more than three-quarters of the original Summit agenda is planned  to remain intact—including preconference workshops, single-speaker presentations, illuminating panel discussions, and of course, valuable networking opportunities.

We know there are many factors governing decisions on where to travel and why—especially under current conditions. But we’re confident that even after shifting to the June dates, we’ll be fielding a stellar lineup at the Summit in Tampa—one you’ll want to be present for. If you haven’t registered yet and/or for whatever reason were uncertain about attending in March, you now have some extra time to decide.

Additionally, the Renaissance has set up a new block of rooms at our discounted rate of $219.00+ per night. To book your room for the new conference dates, please click on the link below:

https://www.marriott.com/event-reservations/reservation-link.mi?id=1583953400577&key=GRP&app=resvlink

Let’s all try to plan for normal again! Won’t you join us? I hope to see you in Tampa!

Tags:  alliances  Amit Sinha  biopharma  Brooke Paige  Dan Rippey  Dana Hughes  David Thompson  Ecosystems  Eli Lilly and Company  Equinix  Jan Twombly  Jeffrey Hurley  Mark Coflin  Microsoft  P2P  partners  Pfizer  Steve Steinhilber  Takeda  The Rhythm of Business  Vantage Partners  WorkSpan 

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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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Mining Eli Lilly's Century of Alliance Experience at ‘Alliance Management Workshop: Tools and Techniques’

Posted By Genevieve Fraser, Monday, February 27, 2017

Last year marked the 140th anniversary of the founding of Eli Lilly and Company. For the past century, alliances have been critical to the company’s enduring success—and again this year Lilly will share its partnering experience and expertise in a workshop at the 2017 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, “Profit, Innovation, and Value for the Part­nering Enterprise,” Feb. 28-March 2 at the San Diego Marriott Mission Valley, San Diego, Calif. USA.

Lilly’s Chief Alliance Officer David Thompson, CA-AM joins Director of Alliance Management, Gary Butkus, CA-AM, RPh, on Tuesday, Feb. 28 for a pre-conference workshop, “Alliance Management Workshop: Tools and Techniques,” a distillation of Eli Lilly's century of business alliance experience that will provide case studies, tools, and techniques used to train alliance managers at Lilly.

Given the pharmaceutical company’s longevity, Lilly has experienced a prolonged period of patent expirations. Yet the company’s research and development efforts continue apace—in 2015, Lilly achieved significant advances in their pipeline of molecules in clinical development, due in part to the alliances it has forged.

 

As part of the “Tools and Techniques” workshop, or what Lilly refers to as Alliance Management 101, Thompson will address topics salient to alliance managers such as the various types of alliance managers and the management of business risk, human risk, and legal uncertainties. He and Butkus also will delve more deeply into the three phases of an alliance life cycle.


“Lilly wants to be an open source of information in order to advance the art and science of alliance management. We hope that people will use, share, and build upon the tools and resources Lilly has developed since 1999,” Thompson notes. “I hope that attendees know more than when they arrived, feel confident in the skills they learned, and share the knowledge they gained with their own company and alliance partners.”

Tags:  alliance life cycle  Alliance Management  alliance managers  David Thompson  Eli Lilly and Company  Gary Butkus  Resources  Tools 

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A Swim in ‘The Aquarium:’ Your Chance to Collectively Shift the Thought Currents of Alliance Management

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Wednesday, September 7, 2016

ASAP Summit and Conference participants spend a lot of time sitting, listening, and absorbing the most cutting-edge information in the industry. Now it’s your turn to be a speaker, guide, and thought provoker in a new session format at this year’s ASAP BioPharma Conference Sept. 7-9, “New Faces, Unexpected Places in Partnering: The Foresight to Lead, the Foundation to Succeed,” at the Revere Hotel Boston Common, Boston. The Aquarium session encourages attendees to dive in and wrestle with the hot topics of the day in a creative, ASAP-designed version of the “fishbowl” learning activity. Moderated by Jan Twombly, CSAP, president of The Rhythm of Business, the session will start with a lively exchange on key topics from several experts in the field of alliance management as the audience peers into the tank. There will be three 25-minute rounds during the session, each with a separate topic. Participants will be allowed to “tap in” and move the conversation in new directions. When someone comes onto the stage, one person must exit. 

“We’re not sticking to a script; each of these topic discussion could branch off,” explains Ann Johnson, ASAP’s content manager, who has developed the concept as an innovation ASAP programming.  “That’s the beauty of nontraditional session structure like this: It allows for free-space that often results in exploring topics in real and meaningful ways … through many different lenses. It encourages engagement, peer-to-peer sharing, and participation, which is what our members want. There are no right answers to these topics, and in fact we want to hear diverse viewpoints,” Johnson adds. “This is a way to hear from the voices we often don’t hear from.” 

It’s an opportunity to become a member of the “school” in a fast-paced, collective swim that is geared to leave participants with a more creative and innovative perspective on the potential for change in alliance management. The following preselected topics are designed to jumpstart the conversation:

Topic #1: Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way

True or False: The alliance management profession in biopharma has the respect, skills, and ability to lead companies into partnering with different types of partners, across industries, and in new models.

Topic #2: Handle with Care: Managing the C-Suite

How do you ensure executive leadership (C-Suite) is appropriately involved in an alliance, without giving them a seat at the table, especially when the alliance is between a small, innovative company and big pharma?

Topic #3: Breadth or Depth – What Does it Take to Succeed?

Which qualities will be more highly valued in alliance managers as the industry adapts to digitization, outcomes based pricing, and an increasing number and variety of partnerships: broad business and technical skills and experience or deep pharmaceutical industry knowledge and experience?

As the conversation evolves, participants will then get a chance to bump the following thought leaders and senior-level partnering executives off the stage: 

  • Jeremy Ahouse, CSAP, PhD, Executive Director Alliance Management, Celgene
  • Harm-Jan Borgeld, CSAP, PhD, Head Alliance Management, Merck Serono 
  • David Burnham, Senior Vice President Strategic Alliance Management, INC Research
  • Mark Coflin, CSAP, Senior Director Alliance Management Global BD&L, Baxalta US Inc.  
  • Cathy Connelly, CA-AM, Head, Alliance Management, Sanofi Genzyme
  • Andy Hull, CA-AM, Vice President, Global Alliances, Takeda Pharmaceuticals
  • Katherine Kendrick, CA-AM; Director of Alliance Management, Elanco, Eli Lilly and Company
  • Brooke A. Paige, CSAP, Staff Vice President, Strategic Initiatives, HealthCore, Inc.
  • Petra Sansom, Sr. Director, Alliance Management, Vertex Pharmaceuticals
  • Mary Jo Struttmann, CA-AM; Executive Director, Global Alliance Management, Astellas Pharma Inc.
  • Michael Sumpter, Head of Alliance Management, Servier Monde
  • David S. Thompson, CA-AM, Chief Alliance Officer, Eli Lilly and Company
  • Steve Twait, CSAP, VP, Alliance and Integration Management, AstraZeneca

 Photo credit:  MB Photo Credit: W. Chappell

Tags:  alliance management  alliance managers  Ann Johnson  Astellas  AstraZeneca  biopharma  c-suite  David Thompson  Eli Lilly and Company  Jan Twombly  Mary Jo Struttmann  Michael Sumpter  partnerships  Petra Sansom  pharma  Servier Monde  Steve Twait  The Rhythm of Business  Vertex Pharmaceuticals 

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