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‘Collaboration Is Not a Natural Phenomenon’: Mapping a TE-AM Road to Successful Alliances, Part One

Posted By Genevieve Fraser, Thursday, September 14, 2017

Managing partnerships with complex multi-partner and ecosystem networks is hard enough, but venturing forth into new types of cross-industry partnerships is near-on impossible without the tools to get you there, according to Lynda McDermott, CA-AM, president of EquiPro International, Ltd., an international management consulting firm which specializes in leadership, team and business development for the Fortune 500, midsized companies, and professional services firms.

“Study after study has shown that collaboration is not a natural phenomenon. It’s more normal to be competitive or to work within your team (tribe),” McDermott asserted during her pre-conference workshop, “Next Gen Alliance Management: Moving your Organization to Ecosystem Performance Excellence,” one of the sessions on opening day of the 2017 ASAP BioPharma Conference, “Accelerating Life Science Collaboration: Better Partnering, Better Outcomes,” held September 13-15 in Cambridge, Mass. USA.

The interactive workshop—incorporating a business exercise, assessment exercises, small group discussions and case studies—was a highly abbreviated version of the customized all-day course McDermott offers, ASAP TE-AM Training, to alliance professionals.

The pre-conference workshop featured an exercise involving colored blocks distributed to groups at each table. The task was to build a tower with the fewest blocks possible. The goal was to have the tower still standing at the end of the session. As blocks tumbled, comments were heard bouncing from table to table.  “Look, we need to make this stable,” one group said to the sound of collapsing blocks. “Don’t touch the table. Don’t breathe!” another group urged.

“Ok. It’s obvious, we need to create stabilizers,” one attendee said as he grabbed two sturdy water glasses. He placed the mouth side down on one and propped the other glass, right-side up, on top, which created a wide-mouthed platform for the blocks.

“Some materials are being used that are not approved,” McDermott interjected, glancing down at the hour-glass formation “stabilizer.”

Once the time was called and the experiment ended, McDermott asked attendees what they thought about their results. “We created a solid foundation which stabilized the blocks,” the architecturally oriented attendee said. Another pointed out that some might regard the use of water glass stabilizers as cheating. “We spent time planning [to determine] whether it was effective,” another team chimed in.

“So,” McDermott asked, “what was most effective? Each team had a set of 16 blocks, plus a set of assumptions. So, how many teams shared their insights or directives with another team?” There was a long pause as she looked around the room. “Oh, so, no one shared? But this workshop is on creating and sustaining alliances. Yet, you did not talk with the other team at your table?” she asked.

“I’ve conducted other workshops where teams did talk with one another, but it never occurred to them that they should collaborate. I’ve also worked with teams that claimed they had a highly collaborative culture, yet the result was the same. They did not collaborate.”

McDermott explained that the key principle at ASAP is collaboration. The certification ASAP offers, CA-AM certification, involves learning a common language as well as a set of processes and tools. But to build an alliance team, that alliance needs structure. Why? Because collaboration is not natural!” she stated emphatically.

Learn more about McDermott’s session and its purpose in Part Two of ASAP Media’s coverage of the ASAP TE-AM pre-conference workshop.

Tags:  ASAP TE-AM Training  collaboration  collaborative  Lynda McDermott 

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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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Dr. David Williams to Keynote 2017 ASAP BioPharma Conference Focused on Accelerating and Fine-Tuning Collaboration in Life Sciences and Healthcare

Posted By John W. DeWitt and Cynthia Hansen, Wednesday, September 13, 2017

As see in PR Newswire... 

The Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals (ASAP), the world’s leading professional association dedicated to the practice of alliance management, partnering, and collaboration, announced the theme and programming for the 2017 ASAP BioPharma Conference Sept. 13-15, “Accelerating Life Science Collaborations: Better Partnering, Better Outcomes,” to be held at the Royal Sonesta Boston, Cambridge, Mass. This year’s conference theme delves into maximizing the value of partnering in life sciences.

“Partnering has been essential to long-term asset development in the life sciences for decades. This has never been more apparent than it is today, especially across the expanded partnering network of the healthcare ecosystem,” commented ASAP President and CEO Michael Leonetti, CSAP. “Patient-centric healthcare, personalized medicine, and new technologies teamed together in the healthcare system are creating new ways to leverage important innovations, which lead to positive outcomes for patients. This year, the ASAP BioPharma Conference will bring together the world’s leading practitioners and experts on partnering in the life sciences to share their perspectives on innovating in this highly complex ecosystem.”

Wednesday morning, Sept. 13, begins with a series of professional development workshops focused on enhancing participants’ alliance management capabilities. . The full conference program kicks off later in the afternoon with a keynote address by Dr. David Williams will take place at 5 p.m. Dr. Williams is chief scientific officer and senior vice president for research, Boston Children's Hospital, and president of the Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. His research laboratory has been the recipient of continuous funding by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for 31 years, since 1986.

“Williams is an exceptional leader who has fostered a collaborative portfolio of successful partnerships at Boston Children's, making it one of the best children's hospital systems in the U.S. today. He has extensive clinical and research experience having investigated, co-investigated, or sponsored extensive clinical trials in the area of gene therapy for blood, immunodeficiency, and neurological genetic diseases,” said Leonetti. “Looking at what BCH has accomplished through its partnership efforts, it is clear Dr. Williams understands and has achieved extensive accomplishments through business and scientific collaboration in healthcare. We are privileged to have him as a keynote speaker—and his talk should be a great way to kick off a great conference program.”

Click here to read the full press release.

Tags:  2017 ASAP BioPharma Conference  Boston Children's Hospital  Collaboration  Dr. David Williams  Healthcare  Life Sciences 

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Academia and Industry—Creating a Seamless Fit (Part Two)

Posted By Genevieve Fraser, Wednesday, June 7, 2017

In the session “Making the Most of Industry-Academia Collaborations,” Mark Coflin, CSAP, head of alliance management at Shire Pharmaceuticals was joined by his colleague, Joe Sypek, PhD, director and external science lead at Shire, as they explored cultural differences between partners in academia and industry working together to find a cure for a disease (see Part I of this blog post) http://www.strategic-alliances.org/blogpost/1143942/277595/Academia-and-Industry-Partnerships-Creating-a-Seamless-Fit--Part-I. Joining them at the 2017 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, “Profit, Innovation, and Value for the Part­nering Enterprise,” were Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute’s (SBP’s) Paula Norris, PhD, laboratory director and project manager, and Sarah Hudson, PhD, R&D project and operations associate director. The 2017 Summit was held Feb. 28-March 2 in San Diego, Calif.

 

Norris works with principal investigators (PIs) to develop strategic plans for lab operations and policies. On any given project, she might work with four or five partners at a time. Some are smaller start-up companies; others are larger pharmaceutical companies. “In the past, we were grant-centric, but now less so as we work with industries,” she explained. “We explore a partner’s expectations, then go back to our group and discuss what we need to do to make it work. But there’s a language gap with industry. The language in industry is not necessarily the same as ours. So at times, there’s miscommunication. But we’ve gotten better at asking questions about what they mean, especially when we’re not sure [of] what they want or their end goal.”

 

“We’ve spent time working on culture and skill seton education across the institute. For example, what is a hit or lead?” she asked rhetorically. “We need to educate in terms of the basic terms of an alliance partner’s language.”

 

“It’s also important to hone in on expectations. If partners have different expectations, it can cause problems,” Norris stated. “Instead of going off on a tangent, we need to understand the scope and what the goals are and stay focused. Otherwise, we will fail to line up with the milestones. The criteria are only met when the milestone is achieved. “

 

“It can be a challenge if a partner says it’s a ‘no go,’ and we think there is an avenue. We need to remember that the money comes from a partner. If there’s scope creep, we need to draw them back to achieve the milestone. To do that you must have the right people involved and have communicated broadly. You need to define the statement of workmake sure the language is conciseso both parties are clear about what they need to do for the project.”

 

Hudson acknowledged that she and Norris are proud of the innovation and knowledge base of PIs, but to retain the culture, academia must adapt to make industry-academia projects run more smoothly. This only happens if someone is designated as the point person: “It’s quite important for long-term capabilities. A manager makes sure deadlines are met for milestones.”

As the leader of the project manager group at SBP, Hudson’s role is to partner with scientific project leaders in collaborations and initiatives. “These pharmaceutical and biotech companies, as well as alliances with other academic institutions, all have the same flavor but run differently,” Hudson conceded. “So, we do what we must to adapt with projects run by a joint steering committee.”

It’s important not to assume everything is going well, Coflin added.  As in every kind of relationship, the person talking needs to be truthful so that members of the team come to you with issues.  Being a good partner involves communicationsmonthly meetings. “Scientists tend to be reserved so they won’t get scooped. You need to create trust. Labs operate in a silo working by themselves, but to have an effective partnership, you need to work in a collaborative environment,” he said.

 

Scientists need to develop basic alliance management skills, Hudson stressed. “Because we don’t have large infrastructure, it’s important that we impart these skills to scientists so we can be proactive, instead of merely responsive.”

 

Since their groups have been working on alliance skills, both Hudson and Norris have personally seen a difference in greater productivity and efficiency through collaboration as their projects progress.

 

Sypek agrees that things break down when there is a lack of communication. If you are to reach the next level, you need to feel comfortable about talking with partners, he said. “The more you communicate, the better you get. But each project must be treated as individual, as unique, especially if the PI and/or goals are different.”

 

“What you are doing is transformative to an institution, Coflin stated. “Just as we do at Shire, you must prepare your institution to partner. Despite the fact they might be uncomfortable, it’s important to give them tools to be ready to partner. That sort of preparation is how you build capability.”

 

The entire panel then agreed on one axiom: A common goal helps make it work!

Part I of this blog post focuses on Shire Pharmaceutical’s perspective on academic-industry partnerships. http://www.strategic-alliances.org/blogpost/1143942/277595/Academia-and-Industry-Partnerships-Creating-a-Seamless-Fit--Part-I

Tags:  alliance partners  alliance skills  biotech  collaboration  communication  Joe Sypek  Mark Coflin  partner  partner language  partners  Paula Norris  principal investigators  Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute  Sarah Hudson  Shire Pharmaceuticals  transformation 

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Academia and Industry Partnerships—Creating a Seamless Fit (Part I)

Posted By Genevieve Fraser, Friday, June 2, 2017

Though their organizations are quite different, the shared goal partners in an academia-industry life sciences alliance is to find a cure to address the disease, emphasized Mark Coflin, CSAP, an oncologist and head of alliance management at Shire Pharmaceutical, during a candid, rapid-fire discussion on the cultural differences between academia and industry. Coflin kicked off a session featuring several panelists  discussing “Making the Most of Industry-Academia Collaborations” during thePartnering for Performance in Life Sciences” track at the 2017 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, “Profit, Innovation, and Value for the Part­nering Enterprise,” Feb. 28-March 2 in San Diego, Calif.

 

Joining Coflin on the panel was Paula Norris, PhD, laboratory director and project manager at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP); Sarah Hudson, PhD, a biochemist, organic chemist, and associate director of R&D projects and operations at SBP; Joe Sypek, PhD, director and external science lead, comparative immunology at Shire Pharmaceuticals. The pharmaceutical company is dedicated to creating specialized medicines for patients with rare diseases.

 

Coflin opened the discussion with a major consideration for this kind of partnership: “From the science side, when you’re handed a project, if you haven’t been involved from the beginning, it’s difficult,” he offered. “Having someone on the alliance side helps a lot.”  Coflin said he has managed some one-off projects, but for the most part, his target institutions are involved with pediatric research where he is responsible for putting agreements together.

 

Sypek’s role at Shire is to identify and foster new academic alliance partnerships. This complex of new partnerships, in turn, feeds the early-discovery stage pipeline in the rare disease space within discovery biology and transitional research.  Shire’s milestone-based agreements are tied to contingent payments for each gene target if specified research, regulatory, clinical development, commercialization, and sales milestone events occur.

 

“We’ve tried other models,” Sypek said. “Each institution has nuances. Each has upfront money and needs money to start up. So, we start with initial payments and set the budget, year to year.”

 

“We do milestones because we need to get meaningful data.  We want data that is robust and statistically significant. If it doesn’t work out, the principle investigator (PI) can take the project and partner with someone else,” Sypek continued. “Treatments are an internal project that require regular lab meetings. Both parties must be committed to getting to goals, but all projects have regular meetings where we try to pour all necessary resources together for success.”

 

When setting up a team, if it doesn’t have a molecule, Shire might outsource and pay for its development, even if it’s outside of the budget.  In 2012, Shire entered a broad, three-year research collaboration in rare diseases with Boston Children’s Hospital, and since then has expanded to other pediatric hospitals. 

 

“Shire’s plan is to cast a broad net to get the best of the best to target the disease. That’s what the intentions are, but what are the challenges?” Sypek asked.

 

“Central to the challenges are the cultural differences between academia and industry. But the goal for both parties is to find a cure to address the disease,” Sypek concluded. “You can work for years in a lab, but it’s the research collaboration that allows a breakthrough [to be] possible. Today, academia seeks out industry partners. The boundary walls are not as high as they use to be. They are more in tune to working with industry. NIH budgets can be tight, and there are always questions about what might happen to funding. That’s where industry might be able to step in and fund research and materials.”

Part II of this blog post focuses on Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute’s perspective on academic-industry partnerships. 

Tags:  academia  alliance  Boston Children’s Hospital  collaboration  Joe Sypek  partner  Paula Norris  pediatric research  research  Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute  Sarah Hudson  Shire Pharmaceuticals 

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