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Why Are We Here? Partnering to Make Good Things Happen

Posted By Michael J. Burke, Thursday, September 17, 2020

Melinda Richter’s journey began very humbly, in a small wooden house with no running water in northern Canada. Growing up in that harsh environment with her parents and seven siblings wasn’t easy, especially in winter. But she was determined, she says: “I was going to change my story.”

That story and its implications rippled through Richter’s day three keynote address at the 2020 ASAP BioPharma Conference, “The Power of Partnership: Driving Innovation for Patients.” And for Richter, now global head of JLABS for Johnson & Johnson Innovation, another key phrase to ponder might be “the power of why.”

A subsequent chapter in her story found Richter living in Beijing and working for a tech company. She was making pretty good money and, as she said, “I thought I had the world by the tail.” Then she was literally “bit by a bug” while walking outdoors and wound up very ill in a Beijing hospital room, where the doctors sadly told her there was nothing they could do for her and she should call her family and say goodbye.

“That changed my life,” she said. She decided that if she lived, she would go to work in healthcare. Somehow she did survive, quit her corporate job, “sold everything,” and went to San Francisco. She was not a scientist but a businessperson, and she thought she might be able to apply some of her tech industry experience to healthcare by identifying problems and coming up with creative solutions.

Using Tech Savvy to Change Life Sciences

This is all in a day’s work for tech, but in the life sciences it’s a little more complicated, given that “before you even turn the lights on” you have to have infrastructure, make investments in capital equipment, follow the scientific process, understand the regulations, and then resign yourself to the fact that it may take 8 to 12 years or more to get a drug to market. If you’re an investor, Richter asked, where would you rather put your money—on the next Instagram, or an oncology drug development program?

Yet Richter persisted, raising $6 million initially to open her first facility and dedicating 50 percent of its common space to help incubate and innovate fresh ideas and new science. A few years and about a billion dollars in deals later she found she needed to expand, and secured a meeting with Johnson & Johnson representatives in San Diego where she pitched the wild notion that “if we put our respective strengths together, we could maybe change the scale in life sciences.”

Maybe not so wild, because the result was JLABS, which has grown from its first facility in San Diego to encompass a number of locations in North America, and recently in Europe and China as well. All of these, Richter stressed, are collaborations—public-private partnerships with government entities such as BARDA (the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority), as well as partnerships with startups, pharma companies, and others.

Getting the Best Solutions to the People

One of the BARDA collaborations is focused on trying to sniff out the next coronavirus-type pandemic. Called “Blue Knight,” its purpose is to “anticipate the next COVID-19 challenge, take the best solutions, and then amplify them out to our global citizens,” Richter explained.

So far, according to Richter, JLABS has done nearly $40 billion worth of deals, amounting to some 150-plus collaborations with 673 companies in its network. What’s more, the organization is 30 percent women-led—vs. 1 percent in the industry—and 29 percent minority-led—vs. 8 percent industry-wide.

Companies apply to JLABS for space, investment connections and opportunities, and coaching that will help them get to the next level and help solve our greatest healthcare problems—aiming at not only more and better treatments, but also better quality of and access to healthcare.

Or as Richter put it, JLABS seeks “to accelerate solutions to patients and make them cheaper, so everyone can have access and everyone can afford it.” Currently this includes working on solutions to the COVID-19 crisis—“If there’s a bigger cause I don’t know about it,” Richter acknowledged.

Why Are You Here? To Walk Through Walls

To do this work, of course, it helps to be passionate about what you do—or as Richter said, to “walk through walls to get it done.” In explaining her mindset, she admitted that when things don’t go well, even today she returns in her memory to that hospital room in Beijing where she wondered whether she was even going to live to see another day. “Then I dust myself off, pick myself up, and get back to work.”

Richter nudged the virtual audience to ask themselves: “Why are you here? Why do you do what you do?” This would seem to have great resonance with our biopharma contingent, who regularly remind themselves and others that the purpose of all their painstaking alliance management effort is ultimately to bring about better outcomes for patients who desperately need that help—thus, Richter said, “fighting for something that’s bigger than you.”

In alliances and partnerships, too, it’s useful to return to these “existential” questions: “What is the purpose that is bigger than ourselves? What are we trying to accomplish together? What can we all do to get over this hump?”

A Powerful Proposition

Not that it isn’t frustrating at times. Richter noted that while she and others started as early as two years ago trying to anticipate something like COVID-19, “we were still too late. We haven’t done this well enough.”

Moreover, organizations doing this important work also need to take a hard look at their own composition—specifically their gender and ethnic diversity. “Our leadership teams don’t look enough like our population,” she said, adding that she had to keep revisiting her own organization’s record, challenging her own assumptions, and striving for improvement. “Which ethnic minorities are absent?” she asked. “It’s something we all need to do better. What are we missing?” This is not just about fulfilling arbitrary quotas, she stressed, but about organizations better understanding the needs of the communities and populations they serve.

Finally, in answer to a question during the Q&A portion of the presentation, Richter acknowledged that JLABS—a series of collaborations that now stretches across the globe—began with one conversation, one meeting, one pitch, and one agreement based on trust, honesty, and transparency. It was important for J&J to understand the risks of Richter’s proposal, and for her to answer their concerns, but also for her to be honest that “things can go wrong.”

And as in any alliance, there has to be the faith and trust on both sides that, as Richter articulated it, “We’re going to figure it out and solve things in the moment. That’s a very powerful proposition.”

Tags:  alliance  BARDA collaborations  collaborations  J&J Innovation  JLABS  life sciences  Melinda Richter  partnerships  strategic  trust 

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Keeping It Together: Summit Roundtable Examines How Acquiring Companies Integrate Alliance Portfolios

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Friday, September 4, 2020

M&A has been a hot topic recently, which is why a good portion of the 2020 ASAP Global Alliance Summit agenda was dedicated to it. One roundtable discussed broadly what alliance managers need to be aware of if they want to dip their toes in the M&A waters. Another took the conversation to a more granular level. In “Big Pharma M&A Alliance Portfolios,” Adam Kornetsky, consultant for Vantage Partners, moderated a discussion between senior alliance professionals employed by household names in the industry about what to do with alliance portfolios in the run-up to and immediate aftermath of an acquisition, both from the acquirer’s and the acquired company’s perspectives.   

Definition of Success: You Know It Don’t Come Easy

Before getting into the specifics, Kornetsky asked the panel to outline what a successful acquisition and integration looks like. Chris Urban, head of alliance and integration management at Amgen, asserted that success is defined differently with each transaction. Sometimes the principal goal is to drive top-line revenues; in other instances it’s for bottom-line savings that result from synergies between the acquirer and acquiree. In some cases, the motivation behind a transaction is to meet a specific safety, regulatory, compliance, or other type of functional requirement.

“It is the most critical thing to define the measures of success and it’s not as easy as it sounds. It may sound easy in the beginning, but you quickly find after the announcement that each of the functions starts to view their own vision of what’s important through their own lens,” he said. He gave the example of a top-line-growth-focused Amgen acquisition in which the company had to stress to the alliance team that “synergies weren’t a part of the deal.”

A more immediate measure of success is the seamless transition of activities to the appropriate business owners by the integration team. Jeff Hurley, CA-AM, global alliance management lead at Takeda, stressed the importance of introducing the alliance portfolio very early on in the acquisition discussions. The more complex the integration, the higher the risk of alliances veering off course. It is important to actively manage partner assets and capabilities so that the value of collaborations is preserved (i.e., they continue to produce intended outcomes) throughout the transition.

“Alliances aren’t necessarily the driver of one of these types of transactions, but they are a key consideration in terms of how well the integration goes,” he said.

Set Goals, Work the Phones, and Tie Up Loose Ends

What sorts of things should alliance managers working in the soon-to-be-acquired company prioritize prior to deal closing? First and foremost, according to Hurley, is to understand the acquiring company’s strategic rationale for the transaction. From there, alliance managers must prepare a wealth of information for incoming senior leadership from the buyer organization. They must provide a 30,000-foot overview of the portfolio and how it might sit within the new organization, as well as a detailed breakdown of the individual partnerships themselves. They should also address enterprise-, function-, and asset-level questions; proactively identify and manage risks specific to the acquisition; and calculate the effort it will take to transition the partnerships through the integration process and beyond.

Mark Coflin, CSAP, vice president and head of global alliance management at Takeda, counseled listeners to provide a two- to three-year outlook for each alliance and specify the goals and expected outcomes at the end of years 1, 2, and 3. In the short term, expect concerned, if not panicked, phone calls and emails from partners wanting to know what is going on. Contact direct alliance counterparts and senior leaders directly—by phone or videoconference rather than email or text, if possible—and communicate all shareable details. Second, tie up important loose ends that don’t require input from the new company.

“Internally, as best you can, think about what the key decisions are—any key, critical, stage-gate decisions that are required—and do your best to try and take care of those decisions, if you can, in advance of the close,” he said.

Cloudy Forecast Around the New Home?

Similarly, the acquiring company has plenty of work to do before close. It must review the contracts for each partnership, especially if a data room is involved, in order to identify antitrust and other legal risks and determine if there is flexibility to make changes to these collaborations if some are desired by the new company, according to Dana Hughes, vice president of integration management and alliance management at Pfizer. The new owner also has to figure out where each partnership fits within its organization, a trickier proposition for a large organization like Pfizer that counts 200 relationships in its portfolio. Will it fall under commercial, business development, regulatory, R&D, or another part of the company?

“Finding that right home is actually part of our deal model because that’s how we know we’re going to be effective in actually rolling out the changes we want to implement to create that full opportunity for patients,” said Hughes, who deals with commercial alliances at Pfizer.

Hughes also added that alliance managers should expect to rely on their experience working in a cloudy environment with scant available information.

“The lack of knowledge is kind of a normal condition for integration,” he warned.

Control what you can control by conducting as much research on the acquired asset’s partnerships and having extensive dialogue with counterpart alliance managers. Wherever possible, name the lead of each alliance team, prep those alliance heads, and build a team around them in advance, so that everyone can hit the ground running when the deal is finalized.  

Urban urged acquirers to tier concerns and address high-priority matters first, such as potential conflicts or antitrust considerations that might require firewalling certain parts of the organization from an alliance’s affairs. Second, identify critical upcoming milestones and address them with “hyper care”; treat these matters with urgency and spare them from the lengthy onboarding process. Lastly, the buyer must recognize which of the acquired entity’s partnerships will be resource-intensive and take measures to ensure that these alliances don’t impede existing collaborations.

A Steady Dossier of Information Keeps Things from Going Sideways

Once the acquisition is complete, there is no excuse for failing to maintain continuity.

“Being acquired and closing an acquisition does not mean that everything starts going sideways,” said Coflin.

Coflin advised alliance managers at acquired entities to determine which senior leaders and alliance personnel need to be briefed on partnership affairs in consultation with the new parent company. Prepare a package on all alliances in the portfolio and rate them on a high-medium-low risk scale based on the number of critical decisions that need to be made and the financial stakes of the collaboration.

Again, focus on immediate priorities and make upcoming decisions. Hurley exhorted alliance pros to do whatever is necessary to make immediate deliverables, and associated action items, visible to relevant executives from the company taking over. He also seconded the comprehensive dossier on each alliance espoused by Coflin.

“It’s more than just an onboarding document. ‘Here’s all the key information that you need to know in order to step into this right away,’” he said.

Special Handling: The Hyper-Care 20 Percent

Hurley added that an internal and external communications strategy should be a primary focus. In particular, someone has to determine who is going to say what to the partner and when.

Coflin said that there are limits to what can be shared with partners before the deal is consummated. However, alliance leads had better be ready to answer immediate postdeal questions.

“This is the way it was. What has changed? What can you expect over the first 90 to 100 days as a typical period of time? How are we going to move through things, say, 100 days into the future?” he said.

From the acquirer’s perspective, Urban suggested that the Pareto principle normally applies in most acquisitions—80 percent “falls very, very naturally into the engine you have built.” The other 20 percent calls for delicate handling. Urban gave a number of examples. A company founder who personally managed an alliance with Amgen’s acquired asset was granted more senior-leadership access than might otherwise have been considered appropriate. The aforementioned partnerships with critical milestones on the horizon and alliances that present antitrust concerns also fall into this fifth of the portfolio requiring “hyper care.” Urban strongly advised stakeholders to overcommunicate plans for these collaborations to incumbent partners because “the partnerships they have with the company we may be acquiring [could be] existential for them.”

But First: Do No Harm

Hughes touched on the human and practical elements of integrating acquired assets postdeal.

“It might be as simple as something like, ‘First, do no harm,’” he said.

Wherever possible, protect ongoing operations and keep disruptions to existing processes to a minimum, to the extent that is possible. Understand how relationships work within individual alliances before making changes, and be transparent about why a decision was made to radically restructure an alliance. Clarity around goals and a carefully crafted process around replacing existing personnel are paramount. Some HR and retention issues are unavoidable.

“We had a habit of making sure things run just as it is for a while so we can observe and learn before we start replacing the individuals who might be involved,” said Hughes, before adding that you always have to be respectful of the new colleagues and the relationships—and trust—that they have built with the partners throughout the process. “[Retention issues] are always present when it comes to an integration situation, both before close when people start bailing out or after close or after their lockup has ended a couple of months later.”

The panelists shared more great wisdom, including an invaluable framework for merging portfolios during the first two months following an acquisition, throughout the roundtable. Summit registrants were able to view the roundtable and hear each expert’s parting thoughts, and discover the comparison Urban was making when he invoked the famous Mike Tyson quote, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched.” (And in case you missed it, for even more on M&A alliance integration check out our article “A Process, Not an Afterthought,” in the Q2 2020 Strategic Alliance Quarterly.)

Tags:  Acquisition  Adam Kornetsky  alliance  alliance portfolio  Amgen  Chris Urban  collaborations  compliance  Dana Hughes  integration  Jeff Hurley  Mark  partner  partner asset  Pfizer  regulatory  Takeda  transaction  transition  Vantage Partners 

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Revamped Bayer Alliance Practice Relieves Partnering Headaches

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Saturday, August 29, 2020

Five years ago, Bayer’s R&D alliance management group knew it needed changes. Even though its core partners were happy in their collaborations with the 150-year-old pharmaceutical and over-the-counter medicine institution, the external perception in the broader pharma community landed in the lower tier, according to its internal research.

The R&D group embarked on changes to its alliance practice in order to improve its function and achieve three larger organizational objectives: 1) deepen the company’s understanding of the mechanisms of diseases that were getting increasingly complex; 2) broaden its drug portfolio into new modalities, technology, and external innovation; and 3) make its operating model more flexible, in general.

Bayer was contending with a variety of changes in its operating environment. First, the number of alliances—and the number of people from outside the organization working on Bayer initiatives—was growing fast. Moreover, the company was engaging in new types of collaborations, such as digital health partnerships, in which it found itself in the unfamiliar position of being the inexperienced party. Partners increasingly had their own alliance networks playing roles in Bayer collaborations, which added a new layer of complexity to the management of these collaborations.

Two Bayer executives shared the story of the company’s still-in-progress alliance management makeover in an on-demand 2020 ASAP Global Alliance Summit session, “Enabling Strategic Change—Cultural and Alliance Capability Development,” which took viewers through the internal and external changes that were made in order to modernize its alliance practice and improve its standing within the broader pharma partner community.

Bayer’s New Training Regimen Comes Up ACEs

The first step in upgrading Bayer’s organizational alliance capability was to overhaul alliance manager training. More specifically, the practice instituted highly tailored individual plans; executives were coming to alliance management from a variety of areas (e.g., marketing, R&D, business development, etc.) and each had different strengths, weaknesses, and bodies of knowledge.

Bayer complemented this individualized training with its Alliance Community Excellence (ACE) initiative, which brought in outside experts, sometimes from unusual places, to hold court on facets of alliance management. Michael Kennedy, PhD, director of strategic alliances in Bayer’s Business Development & Licensing group, spoke of one instance where a former FBI trainer taught alliance managers how to identify and neutralize lying and deceit. The ACE program also placed an intense focus on external networking, including deepening the alliance group’s interaction with the ASAP community. As part of the ACE program, the alliance management practice also set up a help line so that nobody in the organization felt like they were on an island. 

“Who are you going to call? It’s not Ghostbusters. It needs to be somebody within our broad alliance community that people can call, either as an alliance manager running into some challenging topics and wanting to discuss it or somebody on an alliance team. They can pick up the phone and call one of us alliance managers for help,” said Kennedy. 

Complementary Principles, Competencies Go Hand in Hand

Bayer structured its training into six core competency categories: 1) alliance know-how, 2) collaboration, 3) joint problem solving, 4) organizational agility, 5) flexibility, and 6) conflict management, and developed curriculum for executives of different levels (e.g., rank-and-file team members vs. alliance leaders). Each of these areas consisted of three to five individual skills. Kennedy explained that the organization sees synergy between these areas and that they can be broken down into three complementary pairs—organizational agility helps optimize alliance know-how, flexibility aids collaboration, and conflict management is an inevitable part of joint problem solving.

Kennedy walked the virtual audience through a set of foundational principles grouped into two broad categories—1) “Establish,” which dealt with structure and process, and 2) “Practice,” guidance around mindset and culture—that similarly went hand in hand with each other. Each alliance needs resources—namely, the right people, capacity, and investment—but they are useless if partners don’t have access to Bayer leaders. (Resources represent an “Establish” principle, while access comes from the “Practice” category.) Governance, another “Establish” principle, is nothing without alignment, which Kennedy defined in this context as “speaking with one voice.” Communication, both in terms of timing and consistency, to partners and the public at large is paramount, but problem-solving capabilities will eventually be necessary when it breaks down. For years, Bayer struggled to acknowledge partners’ differences, but in recent years the company has strived to safeguard the value joint initiatives are expected to bring to allies. Carry out all of these principles, and Bayer partnerships will generate execution and trust.

“[Execution and trust] really are the foundational pieces of our partnering principles,” said Kennedy.

A New Alliance Culture: Play to Win vs. Playing It Safe

Of course, principles and competencies only go so far if a corporate culture isn’t designed to optimize them. Bayer had a lot of work to do in this area, according to Christoph Huwe, CSAP, PhD, director of strategic alliance development for R&D Open Innovation & Digital Technologies at Bayer. First, the company had to stop operating in silos. To that end, it adopted the mantra “assets over function,” recounted Huwe in describing the new collaborative mindset that encouraged employees engaged in alliances to prioritize activities that were necessary to advance a drug candidate to a clinic or patient. Bayer relaxed its traditionally “top-down” command-and-control model, so that its employees had the freedom to execute accordingly without having to run every decision up the ladder within the company.

Bayer similarly loosened its risk-averse ways to enable the alliance practice to “play to win and learn over playing it safe”—according to Huwe, the organization was previously less inclined to make mistakes. From a strategic standpoint, Bayer’s mentality switched to one of “science over process.” That is, instead of trying to force a drug to work for a preplanned indication, it would follow the science and pursue another indication if initial research showed the asset was better suited for it.  

Cards on the Table: Alliance Game Players Learn Practice’s Four Pillars

Of course, culture starts at the top, so the alliance practice puts its senior leaders through rigorous team and individual training to lead by example and accept what Huwe characterized as “very candid feedback about inconsistencies” in what they preach and what they do vis-à-vis partner initiatives. Midlevel management retraining was also critical, according to Huwe, since the majority of people working on alliance engagements reported to executives at this level.

Since senior executives usually developed the company’s alliance strategy in advance, it was up to the alliance practice to rebrand itself and communicate the new vision to the rest of the organization through “game-ified” cross-functional team-based exercises. For example, the alliance practice created a board game that was divided into the four pillars of Bayer’s internal culture—collaboration, experimentation, customer focus, and trust. About a dozen players would break into smaller groups where they would be asked to discuss whether actions detailed on playing cards were “blockers or drivers” of these four cultural mainstays. The smaller groups would ultimately reconvene to share and discuss their findings in one large discussion.

Huwe said the alliance management team also instituted new “health-check–style surveys,” which measured “awareness, agreement, involvement, and impact,” to make sure the new culture was taking root. Huwe placed a special emphasis on the “agreement” piece.

“You have to have an understanding if the organization is really on board because if they aren’t you have to think of ways to get them there,” he said. “Senior leadership will be much ahead of the rest of the organization in their agreement to the process, so they need to understand that we’re not quite there yet, and they have to continue to work with the rest of the organization to get there.”

Out of Its Comfort Zone and into Global Pharma Networks

Bayer also embarked on several new measures to improve its reputation as a partner externally.

“We’re trying to leverage the partner’s strengths and capabilities and not trying to turn them into more like Bayer. This is causing us to get out of our comfort zone and expand the way that we think and the way that we work with partners,” said Kennedy.

Case in point, Bayer previously had a company policy limiting press releases to deal signings and phase 3 or later. However, the company has recently relaxed that internal standard to accommodate partners that were eager to issue announcements detailing successes in earlier stages of the drug development cycle. In addition, the normally process-driven company has taken steps to become more flexible. For example, it cut the number of steps in its governance process to approve a deal by more than half.

Bayer has in some cases chosen to collocate employees at partner sites, and it has also opened up business and innovation centers in regions around the world considered hotbeds of pharmaceutical activity, such as San Francisco, Boston, Osaka, Beijing, Singapore, and Berlin.

“We’re going to where the networks are already existing and not asking people to come to Bayer [headquarters],” said Kennedy, who added that the company can now take partners to these sites to give them an up-close look at Bayer’s affairs.

The company has established effective online platforms, hosted more partnering events, and increased its conference presence, even bringing actor Michael J. Fox to one show to speak about the company’s efforts around Parkinson’s disease. Today, half of the company’s top 10 products come from partner initiatives, accounting for more than half of Bayer’s revenues.

The opening slide of Kennedy’s roadshow presentation now says it all: “Bayer is a partnering company.”

Huwe and Kennedy had more to share about Bayer’s partnering transformation, so make sure to use your Summit registration information to catch the full presentation in the Summit portal. While you’re there, peruse more than 20 other insightful sessions from the first-ever virtual ASAP Global Alliance Summit.

Tags:  alliances  Bayer  Christoph Huwe  collaborations  Digital Technologies  Global Pharma Networks  Michael J. Fox  Michael Kennedy  Open Innovation  partnering  partners  strategic  transformation 

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Cross-Industry Panel Imparts Insights for Executing David-Goliath Partnerships

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Thursday, June 25, 2020

Big company–small company alliances are a fact of life in some industries. You see them in tech when Global 1,000 technology vendors integrate innovative functionality from smaller startups that fill gaps in their offerings, or when Big Pharma organizations team up with biotechs to develop promising compounds into marketable drugs. Also known as “David-Goliath” alliances, these relationships can contain many hidden land mines if people aren’t careful. Just ask ASAP president and CEO Michael Leonetti, who has led alliance groups in Big Pharma organizations in his career.

“Quite honestly, I’ve seen [this dynamic] kill many an alliance in my time,” said Leonetti in the lead-up to a panel session titled “Managing Power Imbalances: How to Navigate Partnerships Between Large and Small Organizations,” one of the highlights of the second day of this year’s ASAP Global Alliance Summit. 

Moderated by Jessica Wadd, partner at Vantage Partners, this well-rounded panel of seasoned alliance professionals from multiple industries brought a wealth of past and present perspectives from both ends of these types of collaborations:

  • Steve Pessagno, Alliance director and head of global alliance management operations, at GSK
  • Amy Walraven, founder, president, and chief strategy officer at Turnkey Risk Solutions
  • Joy Wilder Lybeer, senior vice president of enterprise alliances at Equifax
  • Troy M. Windt, associate vice president of global alliances and external relations at Reata Pharmaceuticals

“Cultural Diagnosis” Reveals What Might Ail a Collaboration of Big and Small

In kicking off the discussion with an overview of each panelist’s alliance portfolio, Lybeer noted that Equifax relies on smaller outfits to supplement its offerings in ways the company can’t do on its own, She added that the exercise of evaluating a variety of big and small partners “allows us to develop our understanding of potential coopetition, areas where we can supplement our capabilities, or find new routes to market.”

Walraven agreed with Lybeer that smaller companies have plenty of opportunities to complement larger organizations’ offerings with niche “cohesive enhancements.” 

Pessagno, who works with a number of GSK’s R&D-centric alliances with small entities, extolled the virtues of conducting a “cultural diagnosis” at the outset of the relationship to determine how the organizations are and aren’t aligned. This process usually unearths what truly matters to the collaboration as a whole, and these priorities that emerge are eventually woven into the governance and operational elements of the partnership, including the periodic health checks.

Asked what her organization looks for in a larger partner, Walraven cited domain expertise, a strong reputation, and a shared vision of where the fraud, risk, and credit markets, areas in which Humaitrix competes, are heading.

When do you know when you as a smaller organization might have trouble coping with the power imbalance? Windt said to pay attention to the latter’s adaptability right from the start. Since a large firm has lots of processes, can it tailor an alliance structure to fit a partner that might only have two points of contact? He recounted instances where an alternative structure was inserted into the contractual language only to see the large company “migrate back to one way of doing things.”    

Dealing with Outsized Expectations

At one point, Wadd wondered if the panelists ever got excited about a David-Goliath partnership, only to be disappointed when it didn’t fulfill its promise. The panel had no shortage of stories. Walraven spoke of a past partner that showed tremendous enthusiasm about her organization when it was brought in at a late stage of negotiation, but ultimately revealed itself to have little grasp of her company’s value proposition and business model as the collaboration unfolded. The parties tried retooling their joint client deliverables multiple times only to pull the plug on the project after a succession of misfires.

“You really want to make sure that you align ahead of time and that everyone has the same understanding before you set expectations about deliverables with the client,” she said.

Lybeer counseled viewers to identify “pink flags” quickly and abandon an initiative early if the team’s gut feeling is that it will never get onto the right course. She did, however, remind viewers that “the first idea is rarely ever the best idea,” and that oftentimes you don’t necessarily have to walk away from the partner altogether after one failed joint venture.

“As long as we are able and willing to learn and work together, we will find that next innovative idea together,” she said.

Plodding Behemoths Test Nimbler Smaller Companies’ Patience

What should small companies understand about their larger counterparts when evaluating a potential collaboration? Pessagno warned startup and SME alliance professionals that there is a good possibility some of the people in the negotiation stage will disappear after the launch of the partnership. He urged larger corporations to “deal with this transparently” and make some effort to guard against an “asymmetry in the governance.”

Even after some of the initial negotiators drift away, Pessagno acknowledged later in the panel discussion that the larger company’s team might still be four times the size of the smaller counterpart’s, and that the latter will have to endure cumbersome governance and operational processes at times. He recommended that the “Goliath” in the relationship assign a single contact person to the small company’s alliance manager and let the former liaison with the rest of the team and manage the bureaucracy.

In addition, Pessagno implored smaller collaborators to dispel the idea that their larger counterparts have tons of resources to dedicate to their activities. All alliances are competing for a finite amount of resources, even in big companies.

Tech Teams Need Alliance Management Principles

Walraven and Lybeer were asked specifically about analytics-based David-Goliath alliances. The big takeaway: remember that technology partnerships entail more than just technology. Lybeer once handed a technology alliance to the tech team and said, “Good luck to you.”   

“Mistake, mistake, mistake,” she lamented. “Alliance management competencies are a thing.”

The tech team didn’t understand escalation processes and collaboration models, which ended up delaying the activities of the partnership considerably.

Walraven exhorted alliance teams to look at everything through the technical, strategic, solution, and practitioner lenses. Also, take into account that each client and prospect will similarly imagine a joint solution differently.

“Everybody will see it through a different perspective,” she said.  

Alliance Skills Will Help Small-Company Personnel for Life

As the panel concluded, the panelists offered some final takeaways. Walraven reiterated that rigorous work aligning stakeholders on execution strategy up front would ultimately make it “easier to deliver to the client.”

Lybeer urged virtual attendees to strike that balance of being tough without compromising a collaborative mindset.  

“Let’s make sure we’re hard on the hard issues, but not so hard on each other,” she advised.

She echoed her earlier sentiments that you can always walk away from a project that isn’t meeting KPIs without abandoning the partnership entirely.

Most important, according to Windt, work with your HR department to teach collaborative skills and alliance management principles to everyone working on the partnership who may not have an alliance management background. In fact, lobby to make it a permanent part of employee training programs, wherever possible.

“They will serve you well as a person and an employee for the rest of your life,” he said.

Remember, Summit registrants can find this panel, a plethora of sessions from the first two days of the conference, and several prerecorded presentations on demand in the 2020 ASAP Global Alliance Summit portal.  

Tags:  Alliance  alliance management  alliance professionals  alliance skills  Amy Walraven  collaborations  Cultural Diagnosis  enterprise  GSK  Jessica Wadd  Joy Wilder Lybeer  operations  partnership  Reata Pharmaceuticals  skills  Steve Pessagno  Troy M. Windt  Turnkey Risk Solutions  Vantage Partners 

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Accelerating Medicines and Jump-Starting Treatments: Public-Private Partnerships Enlist Takeda and Other Biopharma Companies in the Fight Against Serious Diseases

Posted By Hugh Rauscher, Friday, January 31, 2020

As the healthcare and biopharma ecosystem expands and diversifies, the public-private partnership model offers an important sphere of collaboration between biopharma companies, medical institutions, patient advocacy foundations, and governmental entities. Biopharma companies—many ASAP members among them—are increasingly getting involved with nonprofits, foundations, and other organizations to tackle the toughest diseases, and that includes ASAP global member Takeda Pharmaceuticals.

Takeda is a participant in approximately 80 large-scale collaborations between public and private entities designed to address significant health issues. The majority of these collaborations are around researching and developing new treatments. “We look to get involved where we can add value and where there is value to Takeda,” said Sean Breen, head of global science advocacy and public-private partnerships at Takeda. “In particular, we look for partnerships where patients and patient organizations have a voice in development and can help all the stakeholders understand what patients need.”

Two of the most significant public-private partnership models are the EU-sponsored Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) and the US-centered Accelerating Medicines Partnership (AMP).

Launched in 2008, the IMI is sponsored by the Directorate General for Research and Innovation of the European Commission. The IMI brings together medical institutions, academia, foundations, and industry with the aim of removing research bottlenecks in drug development. According to the IMI website, its €5 billion budget makes it the largest biomedical public-private partnership in the world. 

The AMP is a public-private partnership between the National Institutes of Health, the US Food and Drug Administration, and multiple biopharmaceutical and life science companies and nonprofit organizations. The AMP was launched in February 2014, with projects in three disease areas: Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, and the autoimmune disorders of rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. In January 2018, an AMP project on Parkinson’s disease was also launched with nine partners. The partnership seeks to identify and validate promising biological targets for therapeutics and ultimately increase the number of new diagnostics and therapies for patients while reducing the time and cost of developing them.

“Increasingly, we are seeing regulatory and governmental authorities keen to foster collaboration in areas such as identifying biomarkers and translational research, especially around rare diseases,” said Breen. “Our people learn a lot from being involved in an effort with other world experts.”

There are important differences in the approach and mindset required when working alongside, in many cases, dozens of other biopharma companies that have been brought in to lend expertise. In such cases, Takeda does not have direct control over the objective, the data, or the intellectual property. “Sometimes we have a financial investment, but more often our ability to exercise influence depends on what we are contributing, whether that be know-how or data,” said Breen.

“As participants in these public-private partnerships, we need to understand the problem from the perspective of other stakeholders and work together for mutual benefit. This requires a flexible, adaptive mindset and not everybody can be successful.”

Takeda is not alone in these public-private partnerships. Other ASAP members that are part of AMP include global members Janssen, Lilly, and Merck, and corporate members Celgene, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, and Sanofi. This promises to be an important area of expanding cooperation and collaboration between multiple entities, public and private, so expect to hear more about these disease-fighting efforts.

Tags:  Accelerating Medicines  Accelerating Medicines Partnership (AMP)  and Merck  Celgene  collaborations  GlaxoSmithKline  Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI)  Janssen  Lilly  Pfizer  Public-Private Partnerships  Sanofi 

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