Most pharma-biotech alliances don't succeed. Though some breakdowns are to be expected—the science at the core of each deal will not work out in every case—many are entirely preventable. A deep look reveals that these full or partial failures are frequently a result of factors that can be controlled: timely decision making, effective communication, and goal alignment. Given the importance of such alliances for industry R&D, this article highlights what pharma and biotech companies can do to salvage faltering partnerships, or, better yet, design them to be successful from the start.
Head-on Collisions First, pharma and biotech partners must acknowledge that their significant differences make working together difficult. Transactional alliances—licensing agreements with arms-length relationships—used to be the rule. Today, strategic alliances are more collaborative, calling for integrated decision making and problem solving with multiple interactions among employees from each side. Many people from both partners jointly decide, plan, and exchange data, working side by side or in constant touch day after day.
Interests versus positions. Interests are defined as a party's needs, desires, fears, and concerns. In contrast, its positions are its demands—the things it wants the other party to do to meet its interests. The distinction is crucial. Imagine two sisters arguing over the last orange in the house. They each angrily demand to have the fruit. Finally, their mother makes a Solomonic decision, cuts the orange, and gives each girl half. One sister peels her portion and eats the fruit inside. The other peels her half, tosses the fruit away, and grates the rind into a cake she's preparing to bake.
The moral of the story? Each could have gotten all of what she wanted, not part—if she had discussed her interests instead of just making her demands loudly known.