Q&A: MassBio Partnering Week’s innovation champions on how collaboration can accelerate the delivery of new medicines to patients 

Aug 18, 2022

Ahead of MassBio’s 2022 Partnering Week, we sat down with this year’s innovation champions – EMD Serono, Takeda, AstraZeneca, and Astellas – for a conversation about the current state of biopharma partnerships. Want to learn more about how these organizations approach collaboration opportunities? Register for Partnering Week (September 19 – 22) for the latest insights on each company’s R&D strategy and therapeutic focus areas, followed by a Q&A session with company leaders.  

Why is it important to support emerging biotechs?    

“Through investments and collaborations with emerging biotech companies, biopharma can help accelerate and validate emerging disease biology targets, novel modalities and platform technology. These collaborations may enable critical pipeline programs for biopharma, but regardless of the ultimate success or failure, both sides realize mutually beneficial capability building in the context of flexible, risk-sharing constructs.  Supporting emerging biotech ultimately helps advance science in an agile, cost-efficient manner. Partnering and investing in academic or biotech innovation is a critical element of Takeda’s research and development strategy.” – Alison Handley, Head of Strategy and Operations, Center for External Innovation, Takeda  

“At EMD Serono, we believe that emerging biotech and bigger pharma companies should collaborate as partners in the biotech ecosystem. The classical system where pharma companies invest mainly in their own R&D will, in our view, likely transition over time to an ´innovation ecosystem´ approach in which external innovation has an increasing importance as a source for breakthrough assets. In this ecosystem, it is fundamental for all market players to work together to develop and commercialize treatment options as quickly as possible.” – Dr. Matthias Müllenbeck, MBA, SVP, Head Global Business Development & Alliance Management, Biopharma, Merck KGaA 

“At AstraZeneca we have championed a uniquely open approach to collaboration. Our ambition is to deliver life-changing medicines and ultimately work toward a cure for some of the world’s most complex diseases. We know we cannot do this alone and it is only by working and collaborating together across the life science ecosystem that we will be able to turn science into medicines that can transform disease. Our collaborators are able to utilize tools, technologies and expertise that AstraZeneca has cultivated. One way we do this is through our pioneering ‘Open Innovation’ partnerships where our scientists from the private and public sector can work side by side.” – Scott Galasinski, Global Head and VP, BioPharmaceuticals R&D Business Development, Licensing and Strategy, AstraZeneca 

“At Astellas, open innovation is a core part of our culture and strategy and is critical to our long-term success. Innovations in science are key drivers to the success of Astellas’ pipeline and delivering on our promises to patients. It is imperative that these partnerships deliver value through impact on our product pipeline in a way that allows us to translate these innovations into novel treatments to address areas of unmet medical need for patients,” – Michael Luther, Ph.D., MBA, Global Head of Search & Evaluation, Astellas 

What should established organizations know before partnering with emerging biotechs?    

“Pharma companies need to know what their priorities are and what strengths they can bring to the table to craft a winning partnership with emerging biotechs beyond financial considerations. In addition to our R&D expertise in oncology, neurology & immunology and fertility, we bring manufacturing, regulatory know-how and a global commercial footprint to the table. Inorganic growth is a key priority for us to contribute to our goal to grow Merck to EUR 25B revenue in 2025. We are particularly looking for later stage clinical and late-stage pre-clinical opportunities across all therapeutics areas. You can find more information on our partnering webpage under www.emdserono.com.” – Dr. Matthias Müllenbeck, MBA, SVP, Head Global Business Development & Alliance Management, Biopharma, Merck KGaA 

What does a strong partnership look like to your organization?   

“At AstraZeneca we push the boundaries of science to deliver life-changing medicines; we recognize that the best science cannot happen in isolation, so our way of working is inclusive, open and collaborative. We aim to create mutually beneficial partnerships founded on trust and transparency and appreciate that collaboration is a core contributor to our success. We partner with academia, governments, peer companies, biotechs, scientific organizations and patient groups to access the best science, encourage innovation and accelerate the delivery of new medicines to the patients who need them most.” – Craig Maxwell, VP, Oncology R&D Strategy, Business Development & Alliances, AstraZeneca 

“Partnerships are a critical element of our GI discovery strategy at Takeda, from early platform enablement to deep disease understanding and asset development at all stages. Strong partnerships are characterized by a shared focus on the patient, full strategic alignment, open and transparent team communications, seamless data sharing and contributions to scientific thinking and data generation, from all parties. In this way we all share the ownership and accountability for project success, together.” – Gareth Hicks, Head, GI Drug Discovery Unit, Takeda  

“We are more than just a company who provides access to financing. We create active and productive collaborations with our partners including access to our global R&D expertise, end to end resources, and our network of partners to help scientists, clinicians, and companies deliver innovation. We are confident by working together we can accelerate the development of breakthrough treatments for the patients who need them” – Michael Luther, Ph.D., MBA, Global Head of Search & Evaluation, Astellas 

“We believe a partnership amongst equals is critical to foster success in the biotech ecosystem. We collaborate with strategic partners who offer expertise and counsel to help deliver solutions for patients and their loved ones. Our highly experienced business development team aims to build a strong foundation starting with the first interaction. After finalization of the partnership, our experienced team of alliance managers, researchers, drug developers, and marketers works closely with our partners to get the best results possible by maximizing the value for both parties. 

“In the end, all partnerships are unique, but for us, partnerships need to be built on trust, commitment, and strong scientific data. We do not stubbornly look at transaction types, but really try to design bespoke deal structures to unleash the value of the partnership in a pragmatic, fair, and agile way. Getting new innovative drugs to our patients that help create, improve, and prolong lives is the core of every partnership.” – Dr. Matthias Müllenbeck, MBA, SVP, Head Global Business Development & Alliance Management, Biopharma, Merck KGaA 

Want to learn more about EMD Serono’s, Takeda’s, AstraZeneca’s, and Astellas’ approach to collaboration? Register for MassBio Partnering Week 2022 

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