Thought Leaders: Playing field in biotech/pharma partnerships levels - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Thought Leaders: Playing field in biotech/pharma partnerships levels


Pharmaceutical Executive


If you are talking to more than one company about business terms, you are talking about roughly the same idea. So it is not very difficult to talk about royalty rates and milestones across the board.

There are other items that become more interesting, though. For example, if you sit down and talk about what a clinical development timeline would look like for your program—simple things, like how much time there will be between one study to the next—how do you plan so that you have the minimal amount of time when you finish one study before you go on? Because we are a biotech company, we have limited money, and we have to keep moving. So things like that—how the potential partner works, what their standards are and how they move things forward—become very important. We always have a worry that things will slow down at the bigger companies. We seem to move faster than they do."

Do you think pharma companies are learning anything from biotech through these partnerships?

We probably believe that we do things that pharma companies don't. For example, I will not name it, but we talked to a partner who had a lot of genomic information and they were trying to sort a large group of targets. They did not know if these disease targets were actually in a disease pathway. They did not have an idea of how well they might work as drug targets or antibody targets.

One of the things we have done really well since we went public is sifting through potential targets. We have probably looked at almost 100 targets in the last five years and we have it down to a science. We have a list of steps that we suggest the genomic- or proteomics-type company takes. There are certainly some that may be doing it very well, but we also know of companies that do not do this as well as we do.

I think the big difference is that we have a different appetite for risk than pharmaceutical companies do. When you work in a biotech company, hopefully you share goals across the company. And everyone is pointed in the same direction, which is to move the programs forward. At a biotech company, if something goes wrong, the initial reaction is likely to be, "What can I do to speed this up? What can I do to fix this problem?" I am not convinced that is the first motivation in a large company, where I think people sometimes are redundant and trying to protect their positions. In a small company, people are less concerned about that.

How do you personally encourage that mentality among the people who work for you at Genmab?

I think it is really important to give people as much latitude as possible to do their jobs, to feel that their work is important, that they have some control over the contributions they are making to the company. We hire very skilled people, and we like for them to believe that their skills are contributing to the company.

We won the 2004 Helix award from BIO recently. We had a little celebration and videoconferenced in our other locations for it. I made a point of talking about what every group's contribution was, because we would never have made it if everybody did not do what they did to get the job done.

Does pharma prioritize marketing over science?

I think if you were to meet the scientists from a very large pharmaceutical company, they would seem as dedicated and interested in what they are trying to do as anyone who you would meet at a biotech company. They are generally very interested in the science, wanting to make progress, and wanting to move forward. Unfortunately though, there is a perception that pharmaceutical companies have put a lot of resources into marketing— maybe more than they should have—for "me too" products.

Biotech companies tend to work on products for unmet medical needs. I mean, [biotech companies] are small, so we need to look for a business rationale that allows us to compete. That means that if we have a product for an unmet medical need, we are not worrying about whether we have to run commercials and whether we have the money for that kind of marketing expense.

Going forward, as biotechs start to take on sales and a bit of marketing, will these companies start to look more like pharma organizations?


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