BioPharm America Brings Partners in Health Together
Examining trends in collaboration, externalization and commercialization, speakers at the fifth annual BioPharm America™ conference stressed the importance of adding value when it comes to any deal.
“Partners should come together for one reason—to create value,” said Genzyme President & CEO David Meeker. “The goal is to create something that will actually get to a patient and improve his or her quality of life, not just get approved.”
In terms of making the transition from a start-up to a successful, commercial-stage company, Meeker said executives have to ask themselves, “Are you holding on to the company because it has value or because of your ability to add value?”
Meeker, who served as both the keynote speaker and a participant in the keynote panel, was hired as medical director at Genzyme in 1994 to work on the cystic fibrosis gene therapy program and appointed CEO in October 2011, soon after the company was acquired by Sanofi.
“People were willing to fund ideas in a way that just isn’t prevalent anymore,” Meeker said, referring to the $85 million that was raised for the CF research during his early years at Genzyme, as compared to the current challenges companies face when acquiring capital. “The landscape for biopharma companies is changing with new laws and a greater focus on patient needs… You have to have conviction and passion that other people can get behind, but you also have to have credible assets.”
Meeker was joined by Organogenesis President & CEO Geoff MacKay, TESARO CEO Lonnie Moulder and Alkermes plc Chairman & CEO Richard Pops in a panel moderated by Karen Bernstein, co-founder and chairman of BioCentury. The panelists were in unison about many factors that help guide today’s CEOs to success, such as establishing a diverse portfolio and building experienced teams.
“Companies rarely identify their strongest asset up front,” said Pops. “They stumble onto it along the way. High-risk, high-return investments are the exception, not the general rule. You have to walk before you run, and a portfolio allows you to play out different options over time.”
The robust program at BioPharm America featured other executives from big pharma including Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Amgen, AstraZeneca, Bayer HealthCare, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, Merck, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Pfizer, Sanofi, Shire and Takeda. The event, organized by EBD Group, the leading partnering firm for the life science industry, was held September 19–21 at the Westin Boston Waterfront in collaboration with MassBio.
“This year we absolutely had the best program ever, with provocative topics and some weighty speakers,” said Carola Schropp, President of EBD Group. “From the workshop on making your 30-second pitch and the Fierce 15 awards, to the SciBx Innovation Summit, we had some new and engaging offerings that were a big draw, not to mention the superb partnering opportunities.”
The event kicked off with the announcement of TransCelerate BioPharma, a new non-profit organization focused on accelerating the development of new medicines. TransCelerate’s founding members are Abbott, AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly and Company, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Genentech, and Sanofi.
Next was the announcement of the Fierce 15—the best and brightest emerging biotech companies, awarded by FierceBiotech. Out of more than 200 applicants this year, AC Immune SA, Alkeus Pharmaceuticals, Angiochem, Aragon Pharmaceuticals, bluebird bio, Celladon Corporation, Ember Therapeutics, Enanta Pharmaceuticals, EnVivo Pharmaceuticals, Foundation Medicine, Mersana Therapeutics, miRagen, Okairos, PROSENSA, and Seaside Therapeutics emerged as winners. Eight of the companies are based in Massachusetts.
“They represent some of the most exciting and partnerable companies in the industry,” said MassBio President & CEO Robert K. Coughlin.
“We like to recognize biotechs who boldly set out to blaze new paths,” said FierceBiotech Editor-in-Chief John Carroll. “And we recognize that in an industry like drug development, not everyone makes it to the finish line. But there’s more here than a willingness to accept risk. If anything, the growing appetite for risk reflected in this year’s Fierce 15 raises the odds against successful drug development, but improves the odds of a genuine breakthrough.”
The conference’s opening plenary session, moderated by Doug Cole of Flagship Ventures with speakers Robert J. Gould of Epizyme, Michael Poole of AstraZeneca, Terry Porter of Takeda Pharmaceuticals and Philip Vickers of Shire HGT, explored new roles along the drug development chain and the benefits of outsourcing research.
“We have to get the right balance between what we do internally versus externally, keeping the talent in the organization, but utilizing external experts,” said Vickers.
“The relationships we’re building in the external world will be much more robust in the years to come,” said Poole.
Other discussions covered pressing issues for industry insiders, from spotlight panels covering innovative partnerships in the field of immunotherapy, pre-competitive collaborations, emerging markets and global drug development strategies, to a discussion on best deal structures. The business development track included pharma/venture hybrid funds, financing models and a critical review of major deals of the past year.
The event concluded with the inaugural SciBX Innovation in Drug Discovery & Development Summit, organized in partnership with Nature Publishing Group and BioCentury Publications Inc., which focused on the development of a white paper “roadmap” on Macrocycles and Constrained Peptides-Challenges and Applications.