Slow Deal Flow? - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Slow Deal Flow?
10 Quick Fixes for Getting Business Development Back on Track


Pharmaceutical Executive


Companies should bring back the deal champion. This deal champion would work like a traditional licensing manager, but be able to shepherd a deal through search, due diligence, and negotiation with the various specialist teams still in place. In this way, including a deal champion as part of the process ensures assembly of a best-fit team around the valued deal and partner.

2. Make desk analysis the bedrock of search

One of the reasons companies find it hard to unearth good opportunities—be it pipeline candidates, products, or companies—is a paucity of high-quality, in-depth desk research and analysis. Unfortunately, desk research and analysis is neither fun nor glamorous, but it is fundamental to good business development. Without it, finding opportunities is more a scramble than a strategy-driven pursuit.

One would think that the Internet would make this information more comprehensive and easier to come by. In fact, the opposite seems to be true. The ever-growing conference circuit sees battalions of young and inexperienced "search" executives madly traveling the world, doing more for airlines in Chapter 11 than reeling in business. Hiring consultants and purchasing standard market-research reports has become the default alternative to the hard graft of insightful desk analysis. In this way, companies are systematically shutting themselves out of unique ideas and any type of lead on their competitors in the licensing race for the best compounds.

Companies should instead think about tapping into the analytical talent of PhD scientists transitioning into their first commercial roles in the industry. They possess the intellectual rigor to understand, define, and locate novel drugs. They read the journals and talk directly with their peers—and may be more attentive to novel ideas from an unknown biotech company talking about, say, a new cytotoxic, when the rest of the world is focused on targeted therapies for oncology. Alternatively, these scientists are also more likely to identify a "repurposing" opportunity in a candidate offered for another indication.

Coupled with strong support from experienced management, a structured scientific analysis can quickly turn into a valuable business development tool—rather than just a scientific one—simply by emphasizing patient benefits.

3. Make a partner "your partner"—early on

Partnerships begin at the beginning of negotiations, not when the deal is signed. Help your potential partners become colleagues by getting to know them during negotiations. Listening to a potential partner's concerns throughout the contract negotiations gives companies a lot of information about how this partner collaborates. In particular, it can help companies to understand their partners' concerns and to figure out how to address them better than competitors.

We all know terms are not just about the money. Has their marketing representative mentioned a concern about making the numbers for the current fiscal year? Are the partners scientists who founded the company, as interested in legacy as cash? It's understanding these "soft" issues, and using that insight to help construct deals, that can make the difference between a successful deal and losing it to the next company.

This type of thinking will refocus many business development activities away from entertaining. Instead of spending nights out on the town, corporate executives should focus their energy on effective meeting management, openness, and flexibility, which can say far more about the true nature of a long-term relationship than a top-priced dinner can. The sooner partners see timely feedback on events, issues, and process, the more comfortable they will be about putting their future in your hands—and doing follow-on deals in the future. This type of dynamic helps companies create a reputation as a successful deal maker, and ensures that they will be placed on the "first-look" list for potential partners.

4. License to deal

Preparation is everything—particularly in business development, where even small competitive advantages matter greatly. However, most business development executives don't anticipate the terms that may be sought or accepted from potential partners, or just what offerings might be viable internally, before the crucial face-to-face meetings.


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