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‘Swimming in Partner Soup:’ 2018 ASAP BioPharma Keynote Addresses Challenges of Tech Collaboration on Prescription Digital Therapeutics (Part 1)

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Dr. Corey McCann is a man who wears many hats—scrubs, academic cap, campaigner, jester, and even hardhat. As the first of two keynote speakers at the 2018 ASAP BioPharma Conference “Creating Value and Innovative Partnerships by Driving the Alliance Mindset,” Sept. 24-26 in Boston, Massachusetts USA, he provided a lively presentation in which he showed the audience how he switches his hats with aplomb. In his captivating talk, “Lost in Translation: Communication, Confusion, and Consensus in Strategic Alliances,” the physician, scientist, entrepreneur, healthcare investor, and founder/CEO of Boston-based Pear Therapeutics, Inc., delved into the timely but tough topic of the alliance management interface between biopharma and tech.

Colleague Brooke Paige, CSAP and vice president of alliance management at Pear Therapeutics, introduced McCann by lauding his many “heroic” accomplishments as founder of several startups, a trained boxer with endless energy, and highly approachable executive whom colleagues nicknamed “Snacks” because he rarely stops for a full meal.

McCann then delivered a clever, sometimes humorous, talk from the C-suite about the small, innovative company’s partnering with big companies in their quest to pioneer prescription digital therapeutics for the treatment of serious diseases, including addictions.  The cognitive behavioral therapy-based treatment is software that comes with a doctor’s prescription. The software responds and morphs over time, according to the needs of the patient. The downloaded product requires an access code from the physician.

“We are swimming in partner soup,” announced McCann as he talked about the challenges of Pear’s ample pipeline, which involves 10 products that require separate approvals from the FDA because of the unique framework of prescription digital therapeutics. “You will see us aggressively partnering across all of these verticals,” he continued, while flashing a slide of Pear’s pipeline.

Alliance management at Pear must bridge two distinctive worlds. Pear’s team is “half and half,” he explained: pharma is based in the Boston area; tech is based in the San Francisco Bay area. “We brought these two very disparate sets of people together” in one company—but to do that required a lot of effort to enable tech and pharma to understand the lingo of each’s area of work.   

“One of the things I would like to interweave into this talk is this idea of communication between alliance partners, and nonverbal cues, and how we are productive or nonproductive,” he said, while providing the example of etiquette surrounding the exchange of business card. “Even for those of us who think we have a handle on this very basic skill—this handing of paper to another human being—there is ambiguity.”

“How do entirely different disciplines communicate?” he asked the audience.  “There is an interface between tech and biotech. How tech people communicate with one another is very different than how biotech people communicate with each other.”

People in the two industries dress differently, he then explained. A person in the Bay area might “eat avocado toast and ride a scooter to work. … If I’m interacting with the tech team, I make sure to pet their dogs they bring to the office,” he explained in a sea of laughter from the audience. “One of my personal favorite examples is this issue of language. When pulling Pear together, we used the acronym API—which means Application Program Interface in tech, but for biotech, it means something different”—Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient.

It actually took a while for the two teams to figure out this discrepancy, he explained, again as the audience rippled with laughter. But in the end, the two industries found the glue that holds them together: “Impacting the patient. That is the rallying cry for us. That is how we approach partnership—through good and bad.”

Stay tuned for more of ASAP Media’s coverage of Pear CEO Corey McCann’s keynote and other sessions at the 2018 ASAP BioPharma Conference.  

Tags:  2018 ASAP BioPharma Conference  Alliance management  Alliance Mindset  biopharma  Brooke Paige  cognitive behavioral therapy  creating value  C-suite  Dr. Corey McCann  partnering  Pear Therapeutics  prescription digital therapeutics  software  Strategic Alliances  tech 

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An Incentive to Partner for Children: Dr. David Williams Emphasizes the Value of Industry-Academic Collaboration around Children’s Health in 2017 ASAP BioPharma Conference Keynote

Posted By John W. DeWitt, Thursday, September 14, 2017

Dr. David Williams kicked off the ASAP BioPharma Conference, Sept. 13-15, 2017, at the Royal Sonesta Boston in Cambridge, Mass., with a forthright keynote making the case for why industry should pay attention to the early research and clinical trial capabilities of leading children’s hospitals—which, he argues, can find common ground with the for-profit objectives of biopharma, biotech, and information technology companies seeking new opportunities in healthcare. Williams is Boston Children’s Hospital’s chief research and scientific officer and senior vice president for research, as well as president of the Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center.

 

Williams is a versatile fellow—he still insists on being a practicing physician, despite also being a researcher, senior administrator, international collaborator, entrepreneur, scientific journal editor, pediatrics professor at Harvard Medical, and more—and he says he embraces working in all those roles because they all advance the fight against childhood diseases, improve the quality of life for children, and help once-ill children become the healthy adults everyone hopes they grow up to be.

 

Yet, aside from the “right reasons” everyone agrees upon, it’s not an easy economic case to argue for biopharma to focus on children—especially rare pediatric diseases. Williams was blunt in his keynote. “Seventy percent of drugs we use in children have never been studied and are not FDA-approved for use in children.” Why? “There’s no incentive for drug companies to seek [pediatric] label use.”

 

But his keynote arguments—reflecting his newly established role as chief medical officer charged with magnifying the science and scientific partnerships at Boston Children’s Hospital—seem entirely undeterred by this tough reality.

 

“Many people are surprised at how many drugs have evolved out of Boston Children’s,” he told a packed room of life sciences partnering executives, noting that Boston Children’s ranks fifth among all hospitals in the US in number of licenses and/or options executed (48). (The leader, Mayo, has 96.) Statins got their start at BCH, for example, thanks research efforts prompted by a child’s unfortunate heart attack. But Dr. Williams is not just talking about successful licensing partnerships with pharma leaders—BCH is also a force to reckon with in startups.

“At times, it’s better not to take a license agreement with the standard royalty fee, but rather use discoveries as platform for startup companies. Moderna is a huge company now. I’m involved with Orchard Therapeutics. Alerion is a platform company formed in Germany.” He noted that three BCH spinouts made FierceBiotech’s Fierce 15—Moderna in 2013, Intellia Therapeutics in 2015, and Orchard in 2016.

 

The foundation of these achievements—and a major contributor to BCH’s success as America’s top-ranked children’s hospital—are the remarkable research credentials of the institution where Dr. Williams works, among them:

  • 600,000-plus visits a year
  • 40 clinical departments and 225 specialized clinical programs
  • 800 faculty members and 2,000 fellows
  •  The largest pediatric research program in world based on extramural research funding—more than $330 million in funding for numerous areas of research.

And more than one Nobel prize winner.

 

So why did Dr. Williams take the time to share BCH’s story with ASAP? Because BCH is serious about partnering—not just because the hospital has dedicated alliance managers, but more fundamentally, it recognizes collaboration as key to its success, past, present, and future more than ever. Williams described the organization’s vision going forward:

 

“Champion discovery around pediatric illnesses, deploy genomics into everyday applications, translate our wealth of research into more effective and precisely targeted therapies, and build more robust collaborations with biopharma,” he said. “We’re really ‘putting the gas pedal down’ on advanced experimental therapeutics. The basis for everything we do is discovery science.”

 

Again, why should biopharma companies and society more broadly care?

“In addition for doing it for the ‘right reasons,’ there are lots of economic and societal reasons for doing this work,” he says. “We have the rare cohorts of patients and experts with deep experience in rare diseases.”

 

At the beginning and at the end of the day, though, success for Dr. Williams and BCH means lives saved or extended. One oft-cited triumph is common childhood leukemia, once a near-certain killer, now defeated 90 percent of the time. These kids survive to become adults who lead profoundly better lives—and make a powerful impact on society as a result. “If we can prevent childhood progression [of many diseases] it will have enormous implications later on in adult life.”

Tags:  2017 ASAP BioPharma Conference  biopharma  Boston Children’s Hospital  collaboration  discovery  Dr. David Williams  entrepreneur  genomics  international collaborator  therapeutics 

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ASAP New England Chapter Holds Well-Attended, Practical Meeting on Alliance Management Skills and Competencies

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Updated: Monday, February 20, 2017

Neither snowstorm, nor sleet, nor freezing temps can keep Jeffrey Shuman, PhD, CSAP, principal at The Rhythm of Business, from a New England ASAP Chapter meeting. And apparently, it couldn’t keep four other panelists and about 40 attendees from the discussion on “Alliance Management as a ProfessionSkills, Competencies,” at the Charles River Accelerator and Development Lab in Cambridge, Mass., on Jan. 31.  

The panel talked about the basic alliance management foundational skills recognized by recruiters, career paths, adapting to the evolving ecosystem, soft skills that are key to performing the job, and other related topics in a dynamic, one-hour meeting. In addition to Shuman, who moderated the discussion and is also professor of management at Bentley University, the panel members included ASAP’s own President and CEO Michael Leonetti, CSAP; Marc Silber, founder and president of Crossover Consulting Group, a life sciences headhunting and recruiting agency; Mark Coflin, CSAP, head of alliance management, corporate planning & program management, Shire; Michelle Gardner, business development executive, cloud service providers, at IBM, who arranged the practical meeting.

The complexity of multi-industry, multi-partner alliances with a global reach has made alliance management training skills increasingly important. “Not everybody needs to be an alliance manager, but it’s our view that everybody increasingly needs to have some alliance management skills because alliance capability needs to extend to the perimeter, to the edge of the organization,” Shuman says. For example, scientists increasingly are working with other scientists in other organizations on tech solutions or drugs, whereas previously, most of the innovation was done internally. “What we see happening is folks in those areas are coming to their alliance folks and asking for advice,” he explains. “More people are interacting in these collaborations, and they really need some understanding of the skills and toolset.”

“Given that the speed, scale, and scope of partnering has increased, companies can’t afford to build an alliance management group that can manage all of the different parts of their business. When partnering with external entities, many people need a better understanding of the skills and tools.”

Among the topics that surfaced from the discussion were:

  • How to progress to an alliance management role from another area of the company
  •  Areas alliance managers are recruited from
  •  The various career paths and roles alliance managers can move into
  • Ecosystems, multi-party networks, hub-and-spoke models, and two-party relationships
  • The differences between being an alliance manager in biopharma/pharma and high tech

The topics likely will resurface in various sessions at the 2017 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, “Profit, Innovation, and Value for the Part­nering Enterprise,” held Feb. 28-March 2 at the San Diego Marriott Mission Valley, San Diego, California. Some of these topics also appear in a newly released ebook “The Power To Partner Everywhere: Why You Need It, What It Is, How To Build It,” by The Rhythm of Business Principals Jan Twombly, CSAP, Shuman, and Lorin Coles, CSAP, co-founder and CEO of Alliancesphere, LLC. Their two companies joined forces to form the SMART Partnering Alliance.  For a copy of the ebook, go to http://rhythmofbusiness.com/.

Tags:  alliance management  alliance manager  biopharma  career path  ecosystem  high tech  Innovation  Jeff Shuman  Marc Silber  Mark Coflin  Michelle Gardner  multi-industry  multi-partner alliances  partnering  Partnering Enterprise  pharma  Profit  SMART Partnering Alliance  The Rhythm of Business  tools  training skills 

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Valuable Economic and Financial Metrics to Support Partnering and Revenues, Part II: How Companies Underestimate Alliance Challenges—Especially When Their Operating Model Is the Barrier

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Thursday, October 6, 2016
Updated: Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Alliance management workers and their associated crew members had the opportunity to stock their toolboxes with valuable building instructions at a unique session, “Applying the Latest Alliance Management Research to Your Partnering Practice,” at the ASAP 2016 BioPharma Conference, “New Faces, Unexpected Places in Partnering: The Foresight to Lead, the Foundation to Succeed,” which took place Sept. 7-9 at the Revere Hotel in Boston. The session included a presentation by Stuart Kliman, CA-AM, co-founder of Vantage Partners, on the key findings from Vantage’s 2015 study “Transcending Organizational Barriers—A Cross-Industry View of Alliance Management Trends and Challenges.” The deep dive was part of a two-part presentation that included the findings of Dr. Shawn Wilson, DBA, who introduced an ASAP-commissioned 6th State of Alliance study, “The Economics of Alliances, Social Capital, and Alliance Performance,” which was covered in my previous Part I blog post

“Our findings show that companies are actually doing okay. There aren’t giant failure rates taking place,” observed Stuart Kliman, CA-AM, co-founder of Vantage Partners, during his presentation of Vantage Partners’ latest comprehensive cross-industry study on alliances and alliance management. The 2015 study probes alliance prevalence and success rates through a two-part study methodology that included a 500-respondent survey and practitioner interviews. “ASAP would have been failing if those failure rates hadn’t [improved] over the last several years. Organizations have built up partnering capability, and that has had an impact on success rates.”

Kliman then zeroed in more specifically on the intent of the study: to determine the significance of alliance execution challenges and their consequences; the impact of alliance management maturity on success rates; and potential underlying organizational root causes of alliance execution challenges.

“People still identify alliance execution issues as being the foremost disabler in reaching alliance goals,” he explained of the impetus of the study. “They can identify significant loss of value through poor execution of those issues and spend a lot of time dealing with conflict. Shawn’s iceberg continues to be the underminer of execution.” [Part I of this blog post focuses on Dr. Shawn Wilson’s key findings, which included an “iceberg” analogy of how company issues can be hidden underwater, impacting social capital.]

The purpose of a merger is to eliminate difference, “but alliances are a different ‘berg,” he noted. “Organizations continue to significantly underestimate how challenging they can be. … Internal operating models haven’t evolved in a way consistent with how important alliances are becoming to our strategy.”

Alliance execution was identified in the study as the most frequent cause of alliance failure. Kliman linked that challenge to Wilson’s presentation. “Biopharma companies have internal innovation models, but they don’t spend a lot of time grappling. We actually have organizations involved in partnerships that haven’t evolved over time, so alliance management groups spend a lot of time putting ‘Band-Aids’ on organizations that are regularly undermining execution,” he observed.

He then explained more about the purposes of Vantage’s study:

  • To gain insight into the impact of ineffective management on alliance results
  • Identify new and persistent alliance execution challenges
  • Test hypotheses about the root causes of alliance management challenges

And the key findings of the study…

  • Organizations are increasingly leveraging partnerships to develop relationships for mutual gain, address business challenges, and drive bottom-line results.
  • Some 89 percent of pharma/biopharma respondents consider alliances “very important” or “mission critical.”
  • Some 83 percent of respondents reported having more alliances than five years ago.
  • Some 94 percent of respondents reported effective alliance management substantially increases the likelihood of, or is essential to, successful alliance execution.
  • The respondents reported that 39 percent of alliances fully achieved their objectives, 42 percent partially achieved their objectives, and 19 percent generally failed to achieve their objectives.

When higher maturity and capability grows, there are higher success rates, Kliman concluded. “This is where alliance management groups will lead the way:  One aspect of alliance management groups is to provide direct support to individual alliances and drive the capability. The next big goal is the focus in our second mission: To drive capability with alliances in mind.”

Stay tuned for additional coverage of the session “Applying the Latest Alliance Management Research to Your Partnering Practice,” which will focus on a lively discussion between the presenters and audience participants on how the two studies connect. You can read more on Vantage’s studies by visiting https://www.vantagepartners.com/Articles.aspx

Tags:  6th State of Alliance  alliance execution challenges  alliance execution issues  Alliance Management  alliance prevalence  alliances  biopharma  Dr. Shawn Wilson  management  Stuart Kliman  success rates  Vantage Partners 

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‘Design in Pencil’ as You Integrate Change into the Design Thinking Process (Part Three): How Alliance Teams Build an Experience Map, Grapple with Challenges, and Iterate

Posted By Genevieve Fraser, Monday, October 3, 2016
Updated: Friday, September 30, 2016

As you work through the design thinking process and apply it to your partnerships, you are building techniques to reach a decision, and you are learning to work together. With an alliance team and two core partners, you can get at an aligned recommendation or proposal. The ideal is to brainstorm and map out the most efficient way partners can get to the most effective process to come to a proposal. Then bring the partners together and arrive at a decision. Instead of “You have your way and I have mine,” ask “What is the alliance way?”

Now participants in the “Using Design Thinking to Drive Speed, Innovation, and Alignment in Partnering” workshop are exploring how to build an experience map. At this point in the 90-minute interactive session at the Sept. 7-9, 2016 ASAP BioPharma Conference in Boston, ASAP board member Jan Twombly, CSAP, and her partner at The Rhythm of Business, Bentley University professor Jeff Shuman, Ph.D., CSAP, are leading breakout groups through the process, advising executives to:

  • Step back and focus on empathic needs using their emotional intelligence.
  • Define what the empathic needs are for the co-diagnostic partner.
  • Report back to the larger project team—scientists, governance bodies, and other stakeholders.
  • Brainstorm with the larger group in mind.
  • Accelerate the delivery process, and eliminate elements can slow the process down.
  • Separate decision making into a core group for brainstorming and a companion diagnostics partners group.
  • Question if either party has experience. If both or neither have experience, then negotiate.

It’s critically important for alliance managers to drive the process and ensure it’s actually happening. Establish a collaboration leadership team; compare the companions in a diagnostic space and find companion diagnostic partners. Define the objective of the proposal and components. Both parties should come up with a short list of partners. There should be a joint evaluation process before asking for project approval. Get feedback, and redesign the prototype loop. Bring leaders and managers together to do this. Obtain a joint alliance management agreement on a new design. Relaunch the collaboration, implement from both partners, and plan for a joint development.

  • Two groups should come together and define a shared problem or goal.
  • Identify the problems.
  • Bring back to the company collective and individual brainstorming and group feedback.
  • Finalize and propose to the steering committee.

Approach Issues with Partners—and Build Iteration into the Process

Implementation

There is a skill to defining assumptions that may turn out to be true, or not true. Engage people, and roll it out to create a social charter, and stick to it. When looking at the final piece—look to iterate. You may find you didn’t get the question right, or you may discover you didn’t understand and so-and-so needed to be brought into the process. Question: Are you delivering the design experience? Make sure you find measures that define it. Prior to the proposal being presented to governance, make sure everyone has bought in.

As part of the workshop, groups were formed and asked to identify three assumptions inherent in the process they designed. Additionally, they were asked to assess the following: What is the most critical assumption you have made, and if it’s wrong, what is the impact? 

Group responses:

  • People won’t be candid or transparent or participate in individual conversations.
  • The development team is vetting the plan properly, and it was checked for joint alignment.
  • Both teams want to work jointly and collaborate. Or do they think they know best?  
  • They assume the other company has experience, but they may not have the experience or data needed.
  • In the list of shared attributes, make sure the internal list matches up. If not, it won’t pass governance.
  • You don’t need hard data numbers to prove or disprove the assumption.

Final thoughts

ID assumptions.  Use iteration. Move forward and focus on the intended outcome.  Start the intended experience, and map backwards. All stakeholders must get their needs satisfied; if not, they will stick out their foot and stop the process. Give power to partners if you wish to engage in a productive and collaborative process.

Tags:  alliance managers  alliance teams  Bentley University  biopharma  collaboration  decision making  design thinking  healthcare  Jan Twombly  Jeff Shuman  leadership team  non-asset based alliances  partnering  partners  The Rhythm of Business 

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