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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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From Entrepreneur to Intrapreneur in the Healthcare Industry: Marcus Wilson’s ‘ASAP Quick Takes’ Tutorial at the 2016 ASAP Global Alliance Summit

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Monday, February 22, 2016

ASAP is introducing an exciting new presentation format at the ASAP Global Alliance Summit March 1-4:  the “ASAP Quick Takes, patterned after “TED Talks” and well-received at the 2015 ASAP BioPharma Conference, will bring four provocative speakers to the stage to provide specific, complementary insights relating to emerging ecosystems. Organized around the theme “Partnering Everywhere: Expert Leadership for the Ecosystem,” the summit will be held just outside the US capital at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, National Harbor, Maryland. Among the executives in the line-up is Marcus Wilson, president and co-founder of Anthem’s real-world research subsidiary, HealthCore. With reams of background information and perspective, Wilson is well-placed to speak on his topic “The Alliance Professional as Entrepreneur.” His experience as an entrepreneur has positioned him as a guiding force in his current mission to improve the safety, quality, and affordability of healthcare through data and research. He previously developed and ran the Health Outcomes and Clinical Research program for BCBS of Delaware, on which HealthCore is founded. 

ASAP Media: What are some techniques or approaches you use to jumpstart innovation and creativity as an intrapreneur? 

Marcus Wilson: Making the shift from an entrepreneur to working as an intrapreneur, I have found that there are two major concepts to embrace.  First, I advise intrapreneurs to have patience. Second, innovative concepts have to be well-socialized ahead of formal introduction. Each group or department impacted by that idea needs to be on board with the idea or subtle undermining will limit or completely inhibit progress. As we mature new concepts, we also put into our plan a “campaign” of sorts to help recruit key influencers across the enterprise. It is one step we take to pave the way for these new concepts to gain momentum. 

How is being an intrapreneur different than being an entrepreneur in your industry, and how do they accommodate alliance managers to set the stage for the next levels of meeting customer needs? 

I would imagine for some the difference is significant. Though we have dealt with significant adjustment issues over time, the conversion to being a part of a much larger organization has gone reasonably well. We sold our company to Anthem in 2003 because we felt strongly it was an important step in accomplishing our mission. They had the resources and the position within the healthcare system that would allow us to build capabilities and influence healthcare evidence development in a way we could not do as a small, independent company. Though we have certainly had our challenges, we have benefitted from a solid business structure within Anthem that preserved much of our “entrepreneurial” culture, which was well planned prior to our acquisition, and strong executive level support over the last 13 years. Our alliance managers have played, and continue to play, a key role in both our internal and external alliances. 

What kinds of changes do intrapreneurs need to make in the evolving healthcare ecosystem? 

The healthcare ecosystem can be quite complex, and I am convinced that alliance collaborations are going to be at the heart of solving some of its current issues. Ironically, I believe we can simplify the experience for the patient by collaborating across the ecosystem itself. Thus, intrapreneurial alliance managers will be collaborating in alliances of all kinds, often with multiple companies or institutions working on the same issue. I see this as a huge shift from where alliance management first began in life sciences, traditionally between partner companies of relatively equal size.  

How do you stay ahead of the curve in terms of innovation and "outside-in thinking?" 

A good entrepreneur knows that great ideas can come from literally anywhere. We need to champion this viewpoint as we work to innovate. Just this week, we were talking about the Top 10 trends in healthcare, and asking ourselves for each item: “How might this development influence our future business? How might we organize ourselves to better leverage that innovation? Are we in a unique position to bring that innovation to others?  As a novel, care research organization, what insights can we bring to a given issue?”  As this is core to our business, it is critical to maintain and harness that outside-in thinking 

How is HealthCore on the cutting-edge of intraprenuership and understanding customer needs in the evolving healthcare ecosystem? 

Our early years were spent embedded in a large group practice in Delaware. We worked to support better decision making between the physician and patient at the point of care. Many tough lessons learned in those formative years led us to begin developing innovative ways to get the right information to those two key decision makers. Since our inception in 1996, we have felt the best means of impacting patient outcomes was to influence the many decisions made prior to new drugs and technologies getting to the patient. Realizing the innovators (e.g., the pharmaceutical industry), the regulators (FDA in the US) and policymakers had a major impact on what eventually makes its way to the point of care, we positioned HealthCore squarely on the lines where healthcare stakeholders intersect. Our position gives us rare insight into the needs, priorities, and unique language of each of these stakeholders. In this effort, collaboration is key. We are owned by a payer and leverage the resources and raw materials (data and their important relationships with the providers and patients) from that payer to close critical gaps in evidence in collaboration with the industry and regulators, which facilitates better technologies getting to the market with the right evidence to support their effective use in patient care. It is often a very tough line to walk, and alliance management is essential to our success. 

Tags:  alliance management  alliances  Anthem  collaboration  data  emerging ecosystems  entrepreneur  healthcare  HealthCore  intrapreneur  life sciences  Marcus Wilson PharmD  outside-in thinking  pharmaceutical industry  policymakers  regulators  research 

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