What made the difference, and preserved the deal when other companies might have walked away? In part it was good alignment between the companies. Argos, for example, works in developing vaccines based on dendritic cell immunotherapy rather than cell research on a broader scale. Kirin was committed to the dendritic cell field and was enthusiastic about Argos' technology. Just as important though were softer issues. Kirin respected our leadership and valued the relationship. It could see the long-term benefit of collaborating with this company, thereby displaying loyalty despite the short-term challenges. When Argos experienced a temporary problem with its process before the deal with Kirin was signed, it was honest about the problem and included Kirin in its strategy to solve it. A potential disaster turned into another opportunity to build trust.
Making Corporate Relationships Work
A marriage is more than a wedding. And a successful partnership is much more than signing a contract. In the realm of biopartnerships, success comes from working with a partner over a period of several years to develop a new technology. It depends on having the right mix of:
These elements are crucial not only to starting a new relationship, but also to weathering the rough times that inevitably occur. To make these points more tangible, let's look in a bit more detail at the Argos-Kirin partnership. Because Kirin is a Japanese company, certain cultural issues came into play; however, the overall relationship guidelines apply, regardless of geography.
Cultural differences and intrinsic, core values can can be critical factors in developing a partnership with certain organizations. It is vital to prove that you are both committed to the technology and to the field, and that you trust each other enough to ensure collaborative development.
This was particularly important in our case, given Kirin and other Japanese companies take a longer-term view than US companies. Argos worked at fostering a relationship for three years before securing a deal to develop therapies using dendritic cells with Kirin. But that investment paid off, creating a strong foundation on which Argos and Kirin were able to build a strong collaboration.