Strengthening the Biopharma Ecosystem through Startup-Corporate Collaboration

Jul 27, 2021

By Jason Cordeiro, Vice President of Business Operations at MassBio

Over the past decade, we’ve seen seismic shifts in the way large life sciences companies and startups work together. From simply viewing small businesses as acquisition targets to the emergence of corporate incubators, more and more industry-leading organizations are working to cultivate relationships with emerging founders to help them advance their businesses while strengthening the innovation ecosystem as a whole.

This evolution of the startup-corporate dynamic comes at a pivotal time for the industry. In the wake of the most explosive funding year on record, emerging companies are increasingly in the driver’s seat when it comes to partnering with an established biopharma. In turn, those leading organizations have taken a page out of the startup playbook:

“Currently, biotechs have more options than ever before in their maturity journey. They can stay independent longer, easily access funding, IPOs, and SPACs to make it easier to go public and raise capital. As a corporate partner, we need to be much more proactive, build relationships early, and have more to offer than just capital,” said Marianne De Backer, MBA, Ph.D. Head of Strategy, Business Development, and Licensing and Member of the Pharmaceuticals Executive Committee at Bayer. 

Corporate partnerships have the power to rapidly accelerate a biotech startup’s business. By providing industry-specific coaching, co-development opportunities, advisor introductions, or strategic investment at points when it’s needed the most, these formalized partnerships or collaboration can support startups across their growth trajectory – and bringing new solutions to the patients that need them the most.

“In today’s healthcare ecosystem, as we have seen throughout the coronavirus pandemic, partnering allows companies to capitalize on vast opportunities to bring innovations to the population and patients faster. We also know that partnered assets have shown to have a higher chance of success in Phase II. That is why all our efforts are centered around the aspiration of ‘Collaborate to cure,” said De Backer. 

To ensure that these early-stage partnerships have the opportunity to develop and thrive, MassBio held our second partnering event of the year, the State of Partnering week, in May. Our mission was to connect early-stage companies developing breakthrough technologies with major biopharmaceutical organizations and industry-leading experts to help grow their businesses.

And we delivered on that mission – more than 500 founders, academics, and investors from around the world participated in the immersive digital event that featured open information sessions hosted by BayerIpsen, and Takeda and an innovator bootcamp for business essentials featuring experts from BayerKPMGMarsh & McLennanMorgan Stanley, and Rothwell Figg.

“The collaboration with the MassBio Partnering Week organizing team helped us achieve our goal of creating and expanding connections within the Massachusetts innovation ecosystem,” said Kim Davidson, Head of External Activation & Identity Management, Business Development & Licensing, Pharmaceuticals at Bayer. “Our first participation in MassBio Partnering Week was incredibly enjoyable. The team provided exemplary support across all aspects, with transparent and open communications across booth design, partnering meetings, marketing, and logistics.”

Huge potential for innovation lies in creating more ways for emerging biopharma startups and industry-leading organizations to convene, connect, and collaborate. As we look to the ‘next normal’ of the industry, MassBio is designing new opportunities to build these partnerships. If you’re interested in learning more or getting involved, please reach out to our team at

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