Every month, MassBio spotlights a member company and the great work they’re doing to advance the life sciences industry and support the patients we serve. In November, we spoke with Rekha Paleyanda, Director, Servier BioInnovation. Rekha heads business development locally in Cambridge and across the US with a focus on in-licensing innovative therapies from early-stage through clinical proof of concept.
Tell us about your organization, its mission, and current initiatives.
Servier BioInnovation (SBI) was founded in February 2018 as the early-stage partnering engine of the Servier Group. Servier Group is an independent, global pharmaceutical company governed by a nonprofit foundation headquartered in France, with revenues of $5.2 billion and subsidiaries in the United States and China. SBI is a joint initiative between the Group’s global Research & Development and Business, Development, and Licensing functions, a one-stop-shop for partnering that covers the U.S. from Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Servier BioInnovation was set up in the heart of Kendall Square to foster strong relationships within the world’s most innovative ecosystem. Our team is responsible for creating awareness and identifying R&D opportunities, while expediting business development and licensing activities in the U.S. We also actively sponsor emerging science and entrepreneurship at leading biotech launch pads and science incubators, while also supporting the next generation of scientific leaders via educational and postdoctoral programs with local universities and medical centers.
Indeed, we do not innovate in isolation: Servier currently has more than 30 active partnerships worldwide and over 40 research collaborations. Our research focuses on oncology, neurodegenerative, and immune-inflammatory diseases; together with lifecycle management of our established cardiometabolic and neuropsychiatric products. In addition to a commercial footprint in 150 countries, Servier operates four research institutes and 15 clinical research centers across the globe. Locally and across North America, we are now equipped to offer clinical operations via the Servier Pharmaceuticals subsidiary in Boston’s Seaport District.
How does your organization’s activities help patients now and into the future?
Servier medicines treat well over 100 million patients every day on a worldwide basis. Patients are at the center of our focus as we are committed to therapeutic progress to serve their specific needs in every country in which we are present. Servier is dedicated to supporting patients, caregivers, families, and patient organizations. Some of our U.S. initiatives include our Patient Engagement Teams, Patient Services Program, and Patient Advocacy Program. We work with foundations to serve our patients’ needs, for example, we sponsor the LLS COVID-19 Patient Financial Aid Program.
Our unique governance structure allows us to dedicate a significant portion, 25%, of our revenue from innovative products annually to R&D activities, demonstrating our commitment to drug discovery and development for critical unmet needs. Collaborations are a core part of our business, and at Servier, we partner for a purpose: our patients. We actively foster and promote emerging science through partnerships and alliances with scientists, physicians, entrepreneurs, disease-oriented non-profit organizations, and patient groups.
Patients are at the heart of every decision we make, and we seek partners who share our values and commitment to improving the lives of the patients, caregivers, and families we serve. We partner with others for the advancement of research, while leveraging our strengths as a private company with more than 60 years of success in drug development. Due to our worldwide commercial presence, we are able to increase the global reach of innovative drugs for our partners to far corners of the globe and therefore, treat a large diverse patient population.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the life sciences industry today?
Advances in science and medicine are occurring at a very rapid pace. As early-stage innovators, a big challenge for our industry is keeping abreast of these developments, deciding what is therapeutically actionable, and implementing new programs with the right partner. Moving at the speed of science requires large organizations to constantly evolve their ways of working, to ensure investment and engagement with the needed agility. By building true collaborations with partners, Servier is focused on finding the right modality for the right target in the right patient population at the right time.
Another challenge facing our industry concerns talent, especially ensuring a diverse and inclusive environment for STEM professionals. Our commitment to finding solutions has led us to being very intentional locally, we actively support organizations such as Women in the Enterprise of Science and Technology, the World Frontiers Forum, and have signed the MassBio Pledge to Create a More Equitable and Inclusive Life Sciences Industry.
It will likely take us several years to realize the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our industry. Factors such as delays due to implementing new safety procedures, in the clinical trials process, in patient diagnoses and treatment, along with reduced R&D and commercial output could impact future revenues. There has been a rush on developing COVID-related therapeutics, and this refocused attention will pose a challenge on the funding and progress of non-COVID programs.
What’s next for your organization / what are you focused on in the coming year?
Servier Group is undergoing a transformation to become a leading provider of therapies in oncology, including hard-to-treat and pediatric cancers. Servier’s pipeline currently includes innovative approaches targeting solid tumors and hematological malignancies with 15 projects in clinical development and 24 projects in drug discovery, encompassing a multitude of therapeutic modalities, including small molecules, biologics, and cell therapies. Our focus is on two main areas of oncology, immuno-oncology and cancer-cell signaling, in hematological malignancies and certain solid tumors. Servier is committed to investing around 50% of the annual R&D spend in generating innovative and specialized oncology therapeutics. We are committed to partnering in the Americas to expand our presence and drive our portfolio forward for the benefit of patients. We are actively looking to strengthen our portfolio by licensing-in or acquiring late-stage products in this space. We also have an interest in expanding our translational medicine efforts.
Our group supports innovation in local ecosystems beyond Massachusetts. On this side of the Atlantic, a good example is the construction of the Servier Paris-Saclay Research Institute. This state-of-the-art facility will include an incubator for local biotech companies and house around 1500 people dedicated to the discovery and development of innovative therapeutic solutions. This investment is another testament to Servier’s commitment to furthering life science innovation and entrepreneurship.
Note: This Spotlight article was written by the local members of the Servier BioInnovation team
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