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Ahead of the Curve...ASAP and Strategic Alliance Quarterly celebrate the past while looking firmly toward the future

Posted By Michael Leonetti, CSAP, Friday, October 25, 2019

As we here at ASAP have been transitioning to our new offices—and to a new editorial team—we thought it was important to maintain continuity by preserving and celebrating what has worked well for our community while always keeping an eye on the present and on what’s up ahead. So this issue of Strategic Alliance Quarterly is a special one: a look back at the “best of the past”—articles on evergreen topics full of still-timely information about perennial issues for the alliance management profession—even as we keep our strategic vision firmly facing toward the future.

            What has always made us strong together is the fact that ASAP is your community. We never forget how important it is that you continue to be part of it—and that your interactions with this community help us to spot new trends, identify new needs, and define and refine new capabilities in alliance management and the field of partnering. During my own career I relied heavily on ASAP, along with my colleagues, to see, understand, and prepare for emerging business trends that might put us ahead of the curve.

            Here’s an example: Back in 2009–10, we were talking about how important it would be to have alliance management tactics built into corporate strategy. We declared that every CEO should have a partnership and alliance management strategy. At the time it was clear we were fighting an uphill battle, for sure, and even we thought that what we were asking for was aspirational—if sorely needed. But today we find that the majority of CEOs and other high-ranking officers of major corporations have already built or begun to build a partnership strategy into their corporate plans.

            Need another example? Not so long ago, around 2013, ASAP was writing about, talking about, and presenting the view that digital partnerships would be the next major change for our two primary ASAP member segments: technology and biopharma. While many of us understood that diagnostics, platforms, and wearables would soon become the basis for new partnerships between pharma and tech, many believed this was still a long way off. Yet already today we can see that nearly every major biopharma company and many tech companies are thinking, planning, and executing on partnerships that reach across the boundaries of each other’s industries.

            Could it be that our amazing community of practitioners has the power not only to predict the future, but also to learn important lessons from the past? I think so. And as you read this “best of” issue, I suspect you’ll agree with me that its themes—including managing conflict, navigating cultural issues and company size differences, driving cross-industry partnerships, and guiding alliance wind-down—are still very much alive in the day-to-day work of alliance professionals.

I hope you’ll take advantage of this selection of some of the “wisdom of the past”—the insights, the learnings, the failures and the success stories—even as we shift our thinking toward what’s out on the horizon and to the next emerging alliance challenges and opportunities.

            Like this magazine, ASAP and our member community keep moving forward. We’ll continue to try to provide our hardworking members with information they can use that will help them in their daily work, in their careers, and in their strategic thinking. We’ll absorb and retain the lessons of the past while trying to see around corners into the future, living by the mantra that success that is repeatable is sustainable. So enjoy the read, and the trip down memory lane—and let us know what you think. 

Tags:  alliance management tactics  biopharma  careers  Community  community of practitioners  partnerships  strategic  sustainable  technology 

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Where Hope IS the Strategy: Customizing Alliance Management to Fight Deadly Disease

Posted By Michael J. Burke, Monday, September 30, 2019
Updated: Friday, September 27, 2019

      Andre Turenne began his Wednesday keynote address at the 2019 ASAP BioPharma Conference , held Sept. 23­–25 in Boston, by reminding everyone why biopharma companies form partnerships in the first place: to more effectively find and create new medicines and treatments that will improve patient health outcomes—and in some cases, with the fervent hope of one day preventing or arresting the progress of currently untreatable diseases.

      Turenne, since July 2018 the president and CEO of Voyager Therapeutics, started off his keynote presentation, “Fit for Purpose Alliance Management: Why Customization Matters,” by telling the story of Kyle Bryant, an inspirational and determined young man who was diagnosed at age 17 with Friedreich’s ataxia (FA). The diagnosis of FA, a progressive and eventually fatal disease, means that Bryant will gradually lose motor function and speech. But he has been making the most of his life in the meantime, among other things founding and directing a cross-US bike ride called rideATAXIA—billed as “the world’s toughest bike race”—to benefit the Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance (FARA), and with his friend Sean Baumstark cohosting a podcast, Two Disabled Dudes.

      Bryant is also the subject of an award-winning 2015 documentary, The Ataxian, which shows how he participated in and ultimately completed the grueling cross-country bike ride. Turenne showed the audience the trailer for the film, in which Bryant said of the debilitating disease, “There’s a way to fight it. And there’s always hope.”

      Turenne and his company are trying to translate that inspiring attitude into a forward-thinking strategic vision. Through their commercial collaboration with Neurocrine Biosciences, Voyager Therapeutics is working on treatments in the areas of Friedreich’s ataxia and Parkinson’s disease (PD). In addition, the Voyager pipeline includes a partnership with Abbvie around treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and related conditions.

      Around 6000 people in the US have FA, which is being targeted by gene replacement therapy. About a million Americans have PD; they lose the ability to produce dopamine, which controls motor function, so the goal is to mitigate that loss to help restore motor activity.

      Especially for a small company like Voyager, “collaboration is of the utmost importance,” Turenne acknowledged. “Who we choose to work with and how…has a huge bearing on what we do. And no two collaborations are alike, so we need a customized approach to alliance management.”

      Turenne may be the rare example of a CEO who came up through the ranks of alliance management and business development, but as ASAP president and CEO Mike Leonetti said, he’s “living proof” that it is possible. Or as Turenne explained, “The phenotype of a CEO is changing as the industry is changing. If you talk with VCs, there is no fixed stereotype of what a CEO should be.”

      Perhaps Turenne’s AM/BD experience also contributes to his keen interest in partnering with companies that “punch above their weight in the execution of this function.”

      In Turenne’s thinking, the key factors when considering forming an alliance are:

  • Each company’s size, strategy, and areas of focus
  • The partnered program’s relative importance to each company
  • The other company’s (your potential partner’s) alliance management experience and organizational setup
  • The evolution of any of the above factors for either company over time

      As Turenne put it, “We’re only as good as the way we can work together.” And while he said he doesn’t like to talk about companies with less alliance management expertise as the “weak link,” the success or failure of a given alliance often boils down to the level of the least experienced player. How to bridge that gap to “customize and calibrate the relationship” then becomes the big challenge.

      Add to that a burgeoning biopharma industry that is far from static, and change must be assumed—and anticipated and planned for in advance. The original setup of the alliance, however well structured, may no longer apply given changing market conditions, turnover in either organization, or companies’ shifting strategies, so alliance managers must be agile enough to pivot and adapt to these altered states.

      Among the trends Turenne has seen that have significant implications for biopharma alliance management are:

  • Well-capitalized biotechs seeking to collaborate with smaller companies
  • Big pharma companies trying to “act smaller” and be more nimble and flexible
  • The massive movement of talent across the industry, which means a greater cross-fertilization of alliance management approaches throughout biopharma

      After a dozen years at Genzyme—where he established the alliance management function—and later its eventual acquirer Sanofi, Turenne came on board at Voyager in 2018 already convinced of the importance of alliance management and the need to tailor and customize its application to the partnerships at hand. And having been in senior positions in companies large and small, he has some thoughts on how big and small companies can partner effectively.

      One key is to understand and acknowledge each company’s experience with partnering and how each one works. Ideally then each company can stretch toward the other and meet in the middle in terms of establishing their joint partnering capability.

      “Any effort in a humble way [for a bigger company] to share experience with the smaller partner can have a big impact,” Turenne explained. The larger partner can try to flex to meet the needs of the smaller partner so the gap between them is lessened. At a conference whose theme was “Bridging the Many Divides,” Turenne’s words certainly resonated.

      When he looks into the future, Turenne hopes that the partnership with Neurocrine around FA and PD will still be active in five years. But will they succeed in helping patients with these serious conditions? Turenne feels that Voyager’s continuing efforts to enhance and customize its alliance management capabilities will “improve our chances of making a big impact for patients.” 

Tags:  Alliance Management  André Turenne  biopharma  capabilities  collaboration  Friedreich’s ataxia (FA)  Kyle Bryant  partnerships  patient health outcomes  rideATAXIA  strategy  Voyager Therapeutics 

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Stay Local Partner Global…ASAP New England and Tri-State Chapters Awarded 2019 ASAP Chapter Excellence Awards

Posted By Becky Lockwood, Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Annually, ASAP recognizes some of the best alliances, partnerships, and collaborations orchestrated by member companies during the ASAP Alliance Excellence Awards Ceremony. As part of the program ASAP celebrates the success of the local chapters who bring programs and networking to members while exceeding expectations. As the chapter development committee chair it is always a privilege to acknowledge the chapter leadership teams, some of ASAP’s most involved and committed volunteers. Their passion for the alliance profession is demonstrated by delivering local events and building their communities. This year, two chapters were recognized for their exceptional achievements.

 

The New England Chapter received the Chapter Excellence Award for Best Practices and Tri-State chapter received the Chapter Excellence Award for Programs. Congratulations to the New England and Tri-State volunteers for their hard work to deliver local programs and networking to make the ASAP community strong!

 

For more information about upcoming chapter events visit the calendar and to find a chapter near you visit the chapter page

Tags:  alliances  ASAP Chapter Excellence Awards  building communities  collaboration  networking  New England  partnerships  programs  Tri-State 

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Building ‘Leadership Muscle’: Get Your Organization Ready for the ‘Partnering Marathon’

Posted By John M. DeWitt and John W. DeWitt, Thursday, March 7, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Welcome to the new partnering race—where everyone is running as fast as they can, frantically trying to catch up to the customer.

Nina Harding, channel chief at Google Cloud, asked an important question at the October 2018 ASAP Tech Partner Forum in San Jose, California: “So how do you work with your partners when the customers are ahead of the ecosystems?” This is indeed an important question, given that “every single thing we do is new,” according to Pear Therapeutics Founder and CEO Corey McCann. He added, in a keynote at the September 2018 ASAP BioPharma Conference, that risks associated with new ventures “conspire to make partnerships not successful.” Stuart Kliman, CA-AM, partner at Vantage Partners, characterized the current playing field as “one of significant and ongoing change, which is driving new forms of collaboration, new kinds of alliances.”

Being successful on such a competitive playing field requires alliance practitioners to build their “leadership muscle,” the focus of the Q4 2018 Strategic Alliance Quarterly cover story, “Building ‘Leadership Muscle’: Are You and Your Alliance Management Organization Ready to Run the ‘Partnering Marathon’?” Building leadership muscle means giving your leaders the strength, flexibility, and endurance to withstand the breakneck pace of modern collaboration.

Why do you need this muscle? No matter your industry, regardless of the specific drivers, it’s almost certain that:

  1. Your company is “remixing” its build-buy-partner strategies;
  2. Partnering activity, especially nontraditional partnering, is exploding for your company;
  3. Your alliance organization faces an overwhelming workload;
  4. Your partnering strategy and execution require new thinking, skillsets, and tools.

If your company and its partners are evolving to catch the customer, then you should (or already will) be rethinking, reorganizing, and relearning:

  • Rethinking. Alliance leaders must continuously rethink partnering strategy and models in the context of disruption and new competitive threats, which are all-but-continuous now.
  • Reorganizing. If you aren’t thinking proactively about how you are organized and aligned to overall company strategy, you can be sure someone else is—and soon you will be thinking about it too, only reactively.
  • Relearning. Alliance executives require new skills and cross-industry knowledge for the new partners and ecosystems they interact with. Many alliance processes and practices require radical rethinking and streamlining if they are to remain useful for managing at the accelerating pace and exploding scope of partnering activities today.

“When all these things are changing around you, you can’t keep doing business as usual,” said Brandeis professor, consultant, and author Ben Gomes-Casseres, CSAP, PhD. “This means very often a change in company strategy [and] if the organization’s strategy is changing, then the alliance organization should change with that. That is fundamental.”

See the Q4 2018 issue of Strategic Alliance Quarterly to learn more about how alliance leaders are rethinking, reorganizing, and relearning while they build “leadership muscle.” John M. DeWitt is copy editor and contributing writer and John W. DeWitt is editor and publisher for ASAP Media and Strategic Alliance publications.

Tags:  alliance  Ben Gomes-Casseres  channel  collaborative  Corey McCann  cross-industry  Google Cloud  leadership  Nina Harding  partnerships  Pear Therapeutics  Stuart Kliman  Vantage Partners 

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The C-Suite Takes Front Seat in Lively Panel Discussion at ASAP BioPharma Conference (Part 3)

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Thursday, November 1, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, October 31, 2018

This is a continuation from the panel discussion “Speak My Language: How to Have a High Impact Conversation with the C-suite,” which took place at the 2018 ASAP BioPharma Conference. See Part 1 of this blog post for background information on the panel, which included:

  • James C. Mullen, chairman of the board of directors at Editas Medicine, Inc., who has grown many organizations dependent on partnerships
  •   Samantha Singer, chief operating officer at the Broad Institute, whose organization partners with multiple industries to achieve the Institute’s mission to impact human health throughout the world
  • Alex Waldron, chief commercial officer at Pear Therapeutics, who is highly skilled at bringing in business development and alliance management expertise to grow a company through partnerships

Christine Carberry, CSAP, chief operating officer at Keryx Biopharmaceuticals, moderated the session. At this point in the discussion, Carberry had just prompted panel members to answer the following: “Let’s dig into where things tend to go awry. How do alliance professionals demonstrate their value to the organization? The second half of my question is, what are some of the pitfalls? Where do alliances get in trouble, and how can an alliance manager avoid those pitfalls?” After listening to the responses (see Part 2 of this blog for panelists’ answers), she added her thoughts.

Carberry: Build C-suite-to-C-suite [connections] early on in the relationship. I use to joke that it’s important to have relationships between companies that play golf so the CEOs can get together. You need to be comfortable getting on the phone with them and having a conversation that can go like this: “This is what we’ve done, tried, and this is why it didn’t work.” This is helpful to an executive. We need to implement what will remove barriers and allow us to go forward. The value proposition may have just changed for the companies: That beautiful future might not get created, because we all know divorce is part of the deal. One of the things you will discover as an alliance manager is  you will get people in the organization grumbling about the partner.

Mullen: How many of you inherited a contact, and you were not at the table? [At this point, nearly everyone raised his or her hand while laughter rippled through the room.] Look for the wishy-washy language. Those are the issues that never got resolved during the contract negotiations.

Singer: No matter how good your business development is, the reality is [your perception of the contract] will not match three months later.

Mullen: If you are talking about “stage gate,” make sure it means the same thing between the partners. It may seem really obvious, but it’s not. Make exactly sure of what they are saying.

Carberry: Have clear definitions. For example, “First Patient In.” You may think things are commonly understood, but lawyers say it’s important to make sure definitions are as clear as they possibly can be.

Carberry then fielded an audience question from Jeremy Ahouse, CSAP, vice president alliances, Merus. “A lot of alliance people complain that when they have to bring bad news, the C-suite thinks they only bring problems. How can you do that so that the messenger doesn’t feel like they will get shot?”

Mullen: You need a fairly straight scorecard for the goals of the partnership, and you need a record against that. That way,  it becomes evident that you are making progress. The fact is, [otherwise], you are just raising problems. Check off the problems, and let them know that they talked to you about it, that work was done, and here’s how it got resolved. Keep a high-level scorecard.

Waldron: I agree on the scorecard. And talk about successes, don’t only talk about problems.

Carberry: Everyone is conditioned to success. So if you are doing your job well, you are having those conversations about problems with us.

Waldron: If your company doesn’t have some kind of periodic review, push for that—even if it’s a 15-minute review. Push for that so you can get in front of them. We had a lot of customers, and both the customers and our company didn’t do everything perfectly. But when I had that review of information first, then when they called me up and let me know, 90 percent of the problem was already solved. I knew about it, cared about it, and it got solved.

See parts one and two of this blog and ASAP Media’s ongoing coverage from the 2018 ASAP BioPharma Conference on the ASAP Blog at www.strategic-alliances.org. You will find interviews with conference presenters and other coverage of leadership and strategy, biopharma-tech partnerships, and other trending conference topics in recent and forthcoming editions of Strategic Alliance Magazine and eSAM Plus

Tags:  Alex Waldron  alliance managers  Broad Institute  Christine Carberry  collaborations  c-suite  Editas Medicine  James C. Mullen  Keryx Biopharmaceuticals  partnerships  Pear Therapeutics  Samantha Singer  scorecard 

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