How were you able to move so fast on the Ambrx deal?
It goes back to the fact that we have tried to make our process easier for the partners and for ourselves. We have a due diligence
checklist. We know the questions and the data we want to see. And we have access to senior management on both the research
and on the finance side, straight up to Dick Clark and Dr. Kim. All that's happening in the background, so the company we're
working with doesn't have to worry about it or wait around for us.
What could biotechs and other companies do to make the deal-making process more efficient?
One of the latest things is that some companies want us to make a bid before we've seen any data. We're not fond of that development.
To me, that's a big waste of time because we'd just be making a wild guess. There's not a lot we can do about discouraging
this, other than to point out that it's not the best way to do things. They may have four or five bids, but you don't know
what they're worth because people don't know what they're bidding on.
Nektar found out about the termination of their partnership with Pfizer by reading about it in the morning news. Did that
alter the way companies think about doing deals?
It is an example of what not to do. But you didn't need an example to say it's a bad thing to surprise your partner.
Everybody knows that's not the way you want it to go down. We have an alliance management group, and it's their job to make
sure those surprises don't happen. We hope that we would never make a mistake like that.
These days, is the relationship more important than cash?
We've been told on more than one occasion that we were chosen despite the fact that we weren't the highest bidder. My guess
is that it wasn't a Grand Canyon-sized gulf—let's face it. But I think people do make decisions based on relationships. In
the end, the biotech firm has to feel comfortable that they have a good partner who has that same vision for the product,
and that they respect the clinical and marketing people.
Big Pharma partners often redo clinical trials after licensing a compound—they find they have to repeat a Phase II trial,
for example. Have you seen that problem?
You do or redo a trial so that you can see a clearer path forward. Nobody wants to redo a trial for the sake of doing it.
But sometimes it's unavoidable.
Sometimes, biotechs have to cut corners when they're doing their trials because they don't have as much money [as Big Pharmas].
They're constantly being pushed to go faster, faster, faster. If they had more money, maybe they would have designed something
a bit more elaborate.
Every deal has a "work plan" associated with it that says, "Here's what we're going to do." You have to build that understanding
as you're working out a deal, so it shouldn't be a surprise if a company plans to do a second Phase II trial.
After 22 years in the biz, do you think there is a science to business development?
It's the same skill as picking what's going into the pipeline. People ask me, "What's the probability of success?" And I say,
"What's your success rate in the lab?" It's very hard to know—I think it's a combination of art and science.