It's All Academic: Biotechs Looking to Universities - Pharmaceutical Executive


It's All Academic: Biotechs Looking to Universities


But finding that perfect product is just the first step. For an academic alliance to be a success, the benefits of the relationship must be mutual. The academic institution will have a list of requirements just as the biotech company will come to the table with its list of must-haves. The greatest fear for academia is to see its research go to waste; academia dreads placing technology in the hands of a commercial enterprise that may not provide the dedicated attention needed to find a signal for continued development. For this reason, academic institutions look for a strong commitment from the company's senior management, favorable deal terms, market depth in a specific therapeutic area, and alignment with the partner's core strategy. All these characteristics help ensure that the product is important enough to warrant the company's full focus—and won't get dropped by the wayside.

Unlike big companies, which sometimes push academic institutions aside, small biotechs are the preferred choice for academic-institution alliances. They are more focused and have a greater interest in developing the acquired technology collaboratively. In a typical license agreement, academic institutions reap such benefits as an up-front fee, annual payments, milestone payments, earned royalties, and payment for patent expenses.

Win-Win Situation

Companies and academic institutions are forming alliances at an increasing rate to exploit the promise of emerging biological insights.

In today's environment, fully integrated biopharmaceuticals, such as Amgen, Genentech, and Biogen Idec, continue to commercialize innovative drugs from academic labs and small companies alike.

For start-up companies, the considerable business risk of funding early-stage innovative science can cause many venture capitalists to shy away. Instead, they will increasingly look to academic settings where drug-discovery programs can often be more securely established and maintained . After all, government agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health among others, recognize the significance of drug discovery as an important and enduring contribution to healthcare and society.

Early-stage biopharma companies are poised to be the partners of choice for academic institutions. These companies not only bring focus to the product and relentless energy to the task, but they also provide flexibility in accelerating new generations' therapies to enhance patient care.

Mark J. Ahn, (
) is president and chief executive officer, Fred Vitale (
) is vice president of business development, and Victor Tong, Jr. (
) is financial analyst for Hana Biosciences.


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