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Reset, Relaunch, Rebirth: Rejuvenating a Longtime Alliance to Create Future Value

Posted By Michael J. Burke, 18 hours ago

What happens when a more than three-decade-old alliance that has gone through its share of turmoil nears the end of its contractual life? Does it simply wind down in collective exhaustion, ending with a whimper? Does it crash and burn? Or can it somehow rise from the ashes of the past?

            Two European biopharma companies struggled toward the answer to that question, and ended up resetting and relaunching their alliance to mutual benefit. Eric Ferrandis, CA-AM, vice president of strategic alliances at Ipsen, and Fabrice Paradies, director of industrial business development and global commercial alliance at Debiopharm Group, described the process of bringing their two companies’ productive partnership back from the brink and back to life in their presentation, “Partnership Reset and Launch: How to Complete the Past?” at the recently concluded ASAP BioPharma Conference 2019, held Sept. 23–25 in Boston.

            Paris-based Ipsen, a 90-year-old company specializing in oncology, neuroscience, and rare diseases, and the 40-year-old Debiopharm, a drug development company based in Lausanne, Switzerland, had an alliance going back to 1983 that had been very productive for both of them. This 35-year partnership sprang from a series of agreements and amendments for the licensing of Triptorelin—brand name Decapeptyl—a drug used in the treatment of advanced prostate cancer, endometriosis, and breast cancer, among other conditions.

            The DKP alliance, as it was known, created value for both companies, but as Ferrandis and Paradies acknowledged, it also had been set up in such a way as to cause “pain points” that those working on the alliance had never been able to address holistically. So what to do?

            As the alliance agreement neared its end by mid-2018, both companies’ CEOs agreed that a new alliance framework must be put in place, with negotiation leads empowered to get a new contract signed by the end of that year and relaunch the alliance for the long term. Accordingly, by July 2018 the companies hired the consultancy The Rhythm of Business to help get their partnership back on track by identifying the key problems that had hindered its efficient functioning and to assist in rebuilding a common vision for the alliance.

            The initiation of the reset process involved two workshop sessions covering two days and involving personnel from key functions across both companies. Among the key findings that emerged from those sessions:

  • Both Ipsen and Debiopharm still saw a promising future for the DKP alliance.
  • They also felt that the alliance’s current economic model would not unleash the full growth potential of the brand.
  • More indications launched in more territories globally would deliver greater value to both partners.
  •   Greater proactive investment in product innovation and life cycle management was required for continued success and growth.
  • The long-term relationship had laid a solid foundation, but some deep-seated divisions and differences still needed to be overcome.

Armed with these findings, the two companies’ negotiation teams—primarily three people on each side, with support from above and below—set about to restructure the alliance and set it on a better course, by:

  • Aligning financial terms in the new economic model, across all formulations of the product
  • Developing a joint life cycle management plan that fuels appropriate product innovation
  • Strengthen alliance governance to support the more ambitious economic model and operating framework
  • Working hard to build trust and ensure transparent and effective communication

As Ferrandis commented, “Everything is about trust.”

            As the new agreement was being negotiated, it was agreed that the old contract would remain in effect and the status quo of the alliance would continue on both sides. Other key points, according to Ferrandis and Paradies:

  • The need for a reset was agreed on by both companies.
  • There was buy-in by both companies’ senior leaders and leadership teams.
  • The revenue from the DKP alliance was important to both companies, so it was clearly understood that the reset/relaunch effort needed to go deep into both organizations.
  • The negotiation teams included representatives from alliance management, business development, and legal, and had input from a number of other functional areas—as well as critical support from senior leaders.

Both Ferrandis and Paradies admitted that while everyone involved wanted to “move fast” on the reset effort, it was important to lay the groundwork even before negotiations commenced to get the partnership relaunched. “We had to change the mindset” internally, said Paradies. Doing this work ahead of time—and having “the right people in the room,” as Jan Twombly, CSAP, principal of The Rhythm of Business, noted—led to a “new partnership spirit” in the alliance, according to Ferrandis.

            Ferrandis also cited leadership as “the greatest alliance management skill,” adding that behaving as a leader includes going to senior leadership when necessary to get buy-in and help get issues resolved.

            A new agreement was signed in 2018 that provided for 15 additional years of partnership between Ipsen and Debiopharm, featuring a new economic model with better-aligned financial terms, a new R&D framework with cost sharing for codevelopment mechanisms, new governance giving Ipsen final say over development and commercialization and Debiopharm control over manufacturing, and what the copresenters called a “commercial bold ambition.”

And once the new contract was signed, senior company personnel celebrated with a joint dinner in Montreux, Switzerland, on Lac Léman (Lake Geneva). The moral? For the rebirth of a long-running alliance like this one, said Ferrandis, “Don’t forget to celebrate each time you can.”  

Tags:  alignment  alliance management  codevelopmen  Debiopharm Group  Eric Ferrandis  Fabrice Paradies  Ipsen  negotiation  partner  partnership  Partnership Reset ASAP BioPharma Conference  R&D 

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Your Move: Changing Jobs in Biopharma Alliance Management

Posted By Michael J. Burke, Tuesday, October 1, 2019
Updated: Friday, September 27, 2019

A perennial topic of interest in the ASAP biopharma community—and alliance management in general—revolves around plotting one’s career path and changing jobs, whether that means moving to a new company or shifting to a new job in one’s current organization. And who better to learn from on this subject than three senior alliance leaders who’ve all made significant job changes?

            Such was the setup for a session at the just-concluded ASAP BioPharma Conference 2019, held Sept. 23–25 in Boston. Titled “Alliance Management: What’s Your Next Move?,” the session was led by Steve Twait, CSAP, vice president of alliance and integration management at AstraZeneca, and copresenters Karen Denton, CA-AM, head of alliance management at Experion, and Nancy Griffin, CA-AM, vice president of alliance management at Vertex Pharmaceuticals.

            Twait spent 26 years at Eli Lilly, then left the Indianapolis pharma company for UK-based AstraZeneca, where he has spent the last five years. Griffin described herself as a “serial alliance manager,” with stints at Bayer and Novartis before taking a new job five months ago at Vertex. Denton’s experience, meanwhile, was primarily in commercialization and marketing. She wanted to get into business development but instead became an alliance manager at Bayer—due to Griffin’s influence at the time—before eventually heading to Experion.

            A large pharma company may offer many opportunities to grow an alliance management career, said Twait. The centralized alliance management function at Lilly meant that Twait was able to move relatively seamlessly into different areas and roles. A smaller company may not provide that chance, but wearing many hats there may present other types of enriching experience.

            Griffin noted that personal and family concerns often weigh as heavily as professional considerations—if not more so—and can affect the timing of any move when children are young and in school, for example. If there’s a merger or acquisition involving your company, she added, it can take some of the control away when you’re trying to forge your own destiny. Determining when you can afford to take the risk and try something new is key.

            Denton agreed with Twait that “boredom is never associated with alliance management,” and that the field creates many opportunities for both professional and personal growth. Twait added that just making the leap from Indianapolis to Cambridge, England, was important for his own growth as an individual. Denton said that in her own career move she essentially decided to “set fire to the cockpit and go.”

            The copresenters presented a structure for thinking about making your next job change that consisted of three categories: “Know Before You Go,” “Early Learnings,” and “Begin the Build.” Among the things to find out when plotting a job move, they said, are:

  • Why did this company go outside the organization to make the hire?
  • What is the prospective company’s business development strategy?
  • How can you add value in that strategy?

      Among the “Early Learnings,” the trio cited these questions to ponder:

  • Who are the key stakeholders and who are your best sources of information?
  • How can you get some quick early wins and what are the pressure points in the new organization?
  • Select the right diagnostic: How will you get the information you need to begin to build?
  • How can you establish your value—and credibility—early on?

      Within the first hundred days at a new company, the three presenters recommended taking the following steps internally:

  • Find out who are the “friends and family” of alliance management
  • Get 20 people and 20 processes described as soon as possible
  • Hold one-on-one meetings with key stakeholders
  • Begin ongoing mentoring efforts
  • Shadow department projects

      Externally, they had additional recommendations:

  • Make contact with your alliance management counterparts at the partner
  • Going through one to two cycles of governance should help with the learning curve
  • Collect performance data on the alliance
  •  Do an informal alliance health check with your alliance management counterpart

      Twait described these steps in total as “like an onboarding tool—it’s your own onboarding plan.” Another big question: Where are the key risks in your new company’s alliances in the next 30 days? They can appear in any number of areas:

  • Communication—especially with “unique personalities” who require special handling
  • Where the money is going, with any attendant budget constraints
  • IP issues
  • Public disclosure issues
  • Presence or lack of processes
  • History of conflict within or around the alliance

       Given that all job changes can be challenging, and that learning a new company from a cross-functional area such as alliance management can be hard, audience members in the session had some other pieces of good advice for those making alliance career moves. These included:

  • Ask good questions and don’t be afraid to sound “dumb”—the new company may use different language from your old one
  • Communication is key—face-to-face conversations and “hallway meetings” can help a lot, especially in a small company
  • Understand the essentials of the alliances you’ve taken on—get a summary of the key aspects of the contract in each alliance you’re responsible for
  • The alliance management role may be poorly understood at your new company and not have a true mandate—so you’ll have to earn your credibility
  • The new company may expect miracles—so manage expectations, then deliver
  • The new company wants to reap the benefits of your expertise and to hear your war stories—but don’t compare the new and old companies

      What’s your next move? Whether it’s to a new company or even a new country, or just into a new role in your current organization, there’s a lot to think about and a lot to do as you bring your own experience and alliance know-how into a new situation with fresh challenges. 

Tags:  alliance management  alliances  AstraZeneca  biopharma community  CA-AM  career path  Communication  conflict  CSAP  Experion  IP  Karen Denton  mentoring  Nancy Griffin  senior alliance leaders  stakeholders  Steve Twait  Vertex Pharmaceuticals 

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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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Where’s the Love? Alliance Managers Show Some…to Medical Affairs

Posted By Michael J. Burke, Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Perhaps one of the less appreciated and less understood roles in biopharma alliances—particularly codevelopment, cocommercial alliances—is that of the medical affairs team, specifically medical science liaisons (MSLs). These field-level folks implement a medical affairs plan and communicate and translate the scientific data from a drug or treatment to health care providers. They own relationships with key opinion leaders (KOLs) and according to surveys are pretty important—the most “clinically useful” people many health care providers deal with.

            “They are translators of the data. They give you the scientific story,” said Mary Jo Struttmann, CA-AM, executive director of alliance management at Astellas. Struttmann participated in a session titled “A Winning Strategy: Show a Little Alliance Management Love for Medical Affairs,” along with Judy Baselice, CA-AM, director of alliance management at Pfizer, and Jan Twombly, CSAP, president of The Rhythm of Business, who moderated the session.

            In addition to being keepers of the scientific narrative, medical affairs people own important relationships with key opinion leaders (KOLs), do professional education, facilitate the creation of publications and presentations at congresses and conferences, get involved in grants and investigator-initiated trials, and at some companies perform other functions as well. They can do what others in a biopharma alliance often can’t: explain the science, interpret the data, describe the mechanism of action of a drug, delve into potential side effects and other questions—all with a primary focus on patient outcomes.

Thus the role of medical affairs is important enough in biopharma that it should be written into the alliance contract, with its own separate budget and work plan, and joint medical affairs committees should be part of that contract and integrated into the governance and work stream teams, according to all three presenters. A number of industry developments, meanwhile, have combined to raise the profile of medical affairs as well, including more payer influence, greater focus on the customer experience, an increased focus on patient outcomes, new medical technologies, and the accelerated pace of scientific discovery.

            Struttmann went so far as to say that in biopharma alliances, there are “three legs of a stool”: commercial, development, and medical affairs. Compliance requirements should keep the scientific areas—including medical affairs—separate from the commercial people, but at the same time there needs to be collaboration and coordination among medical affairs, development, and commercial—a value-added and value-creating role for alliance professionals that ultimately leads to greater value for patients and partners.

            Without adequately acknowledging the role of medical affairs in contracts, there can be significant compliance risk; such agreements may lack definition, enabling either party to overstep boundaries on roles and responsibilities. This includes delineating which activities in the alliance are global and which are territorial or regional, and dividing up who owns each activity accordingly.

In terms of governance, if there is a joint commercial committee, there should also be a joint medical affairs committee, reporting directly to the joint steering committee (JSC). Another best practice is the establishment of a “collaborative leadership team.” This team would be cross-functional and meet perhaps monthly, looking at the alliance as a whole. Representatives from commercial, development, medical affairs, and other areas would be at the table, and in such a model medical affairs can address commercial challenges by acting as a conduit for feedback from health care providers.

By setting up such mechanisms to drive cross-functional work and communication, alliance managers can bring about some positive outcomes in the alliance, including:

  • Creating a single version of “the truth” for ongoing cross-functional work
  • Eliminating the inefficiencies of having one-off conversations or meetings
  • Minimizing the risk of delays due to miscommunication
  • Improving accountability through positive peer pressure

In addition, medical affairs will benefit from these more integrated collaborative structures by:

  • Becoming more aware of commercial challenges
  • Aligning with development on the scientific challenges
  • Acting as a conduit to give insights from health care providers to both development and commercial
  • Facilitating life cycle management planning
  • Creating coordinated engagement plans for KOLs, and…
  • In the end, gaining greater recognition for the importance of medical affairs.

Turnover can be a challenge, as in all alliances, and keeping the medical affairs group separate enough to be elevated and not “washed out” or diluted, as Baselice recommended, but integrated enough to be effective, may be challenging.

But getting this mix of collaboration, division of roles and responsibilities, and coordination right is part of the all-important “last mile of collaborative execution,” as Twombly emphasized. 

Tags:  Alliance Management  Astellas  cross-functional  integrated collaborative structures  Jan Twombly  Judy Baselice  Mary Jo Struttmann  Medical Affairs  Pfizer  The Rhythm of Business 

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Playing with Blocks—and Teams: How to Build Together for Alliance Success

Posted By John M. DeWitt, Monday, April 1, 2019

Lynda McDermott, CA-AM, president of EquiPro International, kicked off her preconference session at the 2019 ASAP Global Alliance Summit in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, by dividing the attendees into teams of two and three per table, instructing them to do something that you usually won’t find people doing in a professional setting: play with blocks. Her instructions were simple: Build the tallest tower, with the smallest number of blocks. With that said, McDermott set them to work.

Given that this occurred at a conference dedicated to business collaboration, one might think that a fair number of the teams would begin to work together to win the challenge at hand. However, nobody decided to collaborate. Several groups did discuss the possibility of collaboration, but all ultimately decided against it, for various reasons. Fifteen minutes later, two teams stood at the top of the leaderboard, tied for first. That is unimportant, though, because the key here is in the lesson learned.

McDermott specifically asked, once the toys were put away, if any groups had elected to collaborate. When everyone answered no, she revealed that she was not surprised in the slightest by that answer. In fact, she explained, she has done this same exercise with the blocks all around the world, and just about every group refused to collaborate. This, she continued, was no fault of ours. “Collaboration,” she said, “is not a natural instinct.” This, then, makes the work of alliance management even more meritorious than one might ordinarily think. The simple fact that forcing people to work together goes against our natural instincts makes the work that alliance managers accomplish all the more noteworthy. And it helps to underscore the non-collaborative behaviors faced by collaboration leaders and teams every day.

McDermott then went on to describe three categories, or “buckets,” as she called them, of alliance performance. These are the framework of the alliance, the team dynamics within the alliance, and how lean and agile the alliance is. She then asked the attendees to fill out a survey, with several questions relating to each of the three buckets. These questions were meant to assess areas such as communication, commitment, conflict resolution, and company culture. The idea behind surveys like this, she explained, is to gauge how an alliance is doing and identify how their performance can be improved. Once everybody had filled out the survey, she asked them to share their answers and wrote them down. While all of the questions yielded more positive answers than negative ones, the lowest numbers of positive answers (it was a simple yes or no survey) were all in the “framework” category.

She closed out the session by stressing that an alliance manager is more than just a mere manager. An alliance manager is “a teacher and a coach.” She explained that it cannot be assumed that everybody engaged in an alliance knows how to live productively in an alliance team. Therefore, one must incorporate training and learning into the alliance lifestyle, and encourage people to learn by doing.

See more of the ASAP Media team’s comprehensive coverage of the 2019 ASAP Global Alliance Summit on the ASAP blog and in Strategic Alliance publications.

Tags:  alliance management  alliance manager  collaboration  communication  company culture  conflict resolution  EquiPro International  framework  Lynda McDermott  team dynamics 

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