Accelerating Science through External Innovation

Jan 05, 2021

A Q&A with Diana Gallagher, M.D., VP, Head of External Innovation, Biogen

MassBio is holding its first-ever Partnering Week on January 25-29, 2021. This week-long event connects major biopharmaceutical, medical device, diagnostic, and digital health organizations with early-stage companies developing breakthrough technologies in complementary focus areas for partnering opportunities. To learn more about the role of external innovation and partnering, we sat down with Diana Gallagher, M.D., VP, Head of External Innovation, Biogen, and one of the sponsors of Partnering Week. Here is what she had to say.

What role does partnering/external innovation play in your organization?

At Biogen, external innovation plays an essential part in our mission to discover, develop, and commercialize innovative therapies for people living with serious neurological and neurodegenerative diseases worldwide. We see a role for collaborations that, together with our deep expertise in neuroscience, augment our existing capabilities and pipeline and enable access to differentiated opportunities. Ultimately, it is about giving hope to patients, and collaborations provide opportunities for Biogen to access emerging science, discovery programs, and cutting-edge platform technologies which we believe may help accelerate the delivery of therapeutics to patients. We seek to collaborate with other innovative, like-minded organizations that share our passion for neuroscience and commitment to patients.

How do you support and/or engage with the startup community in Massachusetts?

Biogen’s External Innovation (EI) unit has established a global network with leaders in industry, academia, and venture capital to foster external collaborations. EI actively participates in global conferences, such as BIO International, JP Morgan, BIO Europe, and Cell & Gene Meeting on the Mesa, among others, to find rising startups in areas related to Biogen research.

Startups play a big role in driving innovation within the life science ecosystem and we are proud sponsors of LabCentral in Cambridge. Recently we awarded startups Lucy Therapeutics, GC Therapeutics, and RGENTA Therapeutics with Golden Tickets for one year of residency at LabCentral as well as presented Dyno Therapeutics with the Startup of the Year award at the 2020 National Xconomy Awards. We look forward to the opportunities ahead with the startup community in 2021 to establish collaborations, discover breakthrough modalities, and to transform the lives of patients.

What is one of the greatest unmet medical needs that your organization hopes to address in the next several years and how do you intend to do so?

We believe that neuroscience is the next frontier. Few other areas hold as much need or as much promise for medical breakthroughs as neuroscience. Neurological disorders are the top cause of disability worldwide and, without disease modifying treatments available, this unmet need for therapeutic treatments is only projected to grow as the population ages.

Our focus on neuroscience allows us to pursue highly synergistic disease areas which may enable accelerated progress in each, and we believe a greater ability to holistically serve our patients and support their caregivers. We are investing to build leading platform capabilities both internally and through external collaborations and, this year alone, we forged multiple new relationships with the goal of accelerating our approach in gene therapy, an area we believe will be critical to expanding reach in neuroscience.

We know this space is challenging and that the risk of failure keeps others away, but at Biogen we are not afraid to go where others won’t. We have the resilience to stay focused on the science and on embracing risk-forward opportunities, while simultaneously de-risking our commercialization and manufacturing through time-tested capabilities. This places us in a rare niche where we are singularly poised to pursue a new frontier nimbly but reliably.

Why did you sign on to MassBio’s Partnering Week and what do you hope to accomplish?

Our hope for MassBio Partnering Week is to catalyze an industry culture around holding annual collaboration discussions in January. Being proactive with collaboration discussions in January sets the tone for the year, and we plan to host meetings throughout the month to engage with those who are championing revolutionary ideas in multiple areas of neuroscience as well as the next generation of drug discovery technologies and platforms. It is through these discussions we hope to meet potential collaborators that, together with our team, will help bring promise to the many people living with neurological diseases.

To learn more about Partnering Week and our sponsors and to register to attend, please visit the MassBio Partnering Week website.

Diana Gallagher, M.D.
VP, Head of External Innovation, Biogen

Diana Gallagher leads the External Innovation unit at Biogen, a global team working to deliver on the mission to bring pioneering therapies to patients with serious unmet needs. Her team has core competencies across preclinical and clinical drug development which allows them to seek out and rigorously assess novel opportunities to augment the Biogen portfolio. Most recently, she Dr. Gallagher has been involved in the acquisitions or partnerships with Nightstar, Denali, and Sage Therapeutics. In her almost 6 years at Biogen, she has worked across discovery and clinical development with a broad focus on emerging areas for Biogen including Ophthalmology, Neuropsychiatry, Immunology, and Pain.

Prior to Biogen, Dr. Gallagher worked in Early Clinical Development at Merck across a range of clinical indications. Before working in industry, she completed an MD at Johns Hopkins, a Masters in Medical Sciences at Harvard Medical School, and an Internal Medicine residency and Pulmonary and Critical Care fellowship at the Harvard hospitals. In addition to clinical time as an ICU physician, her research was focused on endothelial barrier dysfunction.

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