Oiling the Engines of Invention - Pharmaceutical Executive


Oiling the Engines of Invention
Big Pharma-biotech alliances


There are many very good reasons, and easily half of them are involved in a similar milieu. The things we actually take forward are the ones that require a lot of investment. To do a due diligence, 12-15 people from line management on up get on an airplane halfway around the world and spend three days. And we do 35 or 40 of these a year—it's a significant commitment. And these are guys who sometimes have to take resources from their regular jobs to go out and work twice as hard when they get back. But everyone from the chairman and the CEO all the way down, has as his or her goal to do business development deals. That's why the process gets attention.

Ko Instead of taking forward a few that require a lot of investment because the due diligence is time consuming, costly and involves many line management people, for much less money and with a few discerning medical experts, Big Pharma should identify and sign up the option rights of a few hundred promising drug candidates. It will take no more than one or two years to get human data and find out how many are potential winners. It is almost a mathematical certainty the batting average will be better than the present system of deal making.

Koster Cardiovascular is another area that has to be considered because a lot of resources have been spent looking to treat dyslipidemias. But the other half of that equation is the inflammatory process that occurs in vascular disease. If we're going to make progress we've got to have biomarkers that allow us to develop drugs. Once that occurs, a whole range of possibilities open up in treating vascular disease, which is still one of the biggest killers.

Ko CNS diseases are still some of the most difficult therapeutic areas with unmet needs. It is a worthy challenge that requires the discovery and speed of the biotech companies and the capacity of Big Pharma to commercialize the coming generation of biologic drugs.

Cupit In the industry there are few advances in development for hypertension, thromboembolic disease, and arrhythmias. Benign arrhythmias in adults affect about 10 percent of the population. It's very difficult managing those and there aren't a lot of products out there in that space right now.

Koster There are many exciting things happening out there. But I guess I've become a little bit more cynical as we start to go into these new targets and don't have a full understanding of what the disease actually is.

Today we have a broad definition of, for example, what asthma is. But asthma is a progressive disease—it's defined as reversible airway disease. If you look at the way it generates and its etiology, there are a whole bunch of different steps involved. But how do we treat it when we get into the clinic? We treat it as a single entity and look at it very simplistically.

We have to start understanding what is disease. What is diabetes? Diabetes has several syndromes associated with it as it starts to develop. When you start, you get into insulin resistance, going down to frank pancreatic failure. But there's a continuum in between that we should look at more closely in order to be successful.

That's one of the biggest problems we're going to face in this genomic era—a lot of these targets that we get very excited about have no validation behind them connecting them to the pathophysiology of disease.

Preferred Pharma Partners What makes a pharma company an attractive choice for a partnership? It's about flexibility, expertise, chemistry, and . . . money? The group answers that question with a collective nod.

Broughton Many companies have great capabilities, fantastic resources, and good people. But I have found in our negotiations with the larger pharma companies that some are more flexible than others. Each product, company, and alliance is different. So a cookie-cutter approach will greatly limit the ability to accomplish a lot of things—especially what the smaller company wants to do. Flexibility is the key as is the openness to change the rules and discuss new types of arrangements rather than ones that have just been done before.


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