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Meeting today's innovation challenges with new approaches to partnership


Brand Insights - Thought Leadership | Paid Program

Issei Tsukamoto, SVP, Head of Business Development, Astellas Pharma Inc.

Issei Tsukamoto, SVP, Head of Business Development, Astellas Pharma Inc.

As we welcome a new year, I’m reflecting on what the future holds for partnering in pharma. And I’m not alone in this – 10,000 of us will be arriving in San Francisco this January for premier partnering conferences, where collaboration is a strategic priority for leaders across our industry. Appetite for partnership continues to increase, and with that, so does competition.

At Astellas, we focus our efforts on areas of high unmet need where we can deliver the greatest VALUE to patients and society – areas of high innovation potential that are largely unchartered. That’s why we seek ambitious collaborators willing to step into the unknown to accelerate the development of innovative therapies so we can extend and improve patients’ lives.

To stand out to prospective collaborators, we must all ask ourselves: “who are we as a partner?” Or rather, “who do we want to be, and what can we offer?”. For me, there are five key principles:

1. Set a clear vision for partnership, focused on maximizing VALUE

As many pharma companies, including Astellas, extend their strategies beyond disease management to encompass potential cures, we must shift our approach to innovation and focus on the collaborations that make it possible. Currently, there is significant unmet patient need across a range of rare and chronic diseases. As such, partnering with ambitious organizations, particularly those working in new biology and modalities that span emerging R&D areas, is essential to deliver ground-breaking science.

2. Have a clear, long-term strategy

Increasingly intense competition and the high attrition rates inherent in advancing novel modalities mean that those looking to collaborate cannot afford to do so without a clear, focused long-term strategy. This is essential to act quickly and confidently when the right opportunities arise. It also demands a culture of perseverance, working side by side and deciding together when to accelerate, pivot and pause.

3. Inspire each other

Partnerships allow us to grow together. Nowhere is this more relevant than on new frontiers, such as cell and gene therapies. Acknowledging that we can learn as much as we can offer is essential to accelerating collective efforts in these unchartered fields. Astellas has changed through partnership – becoming stronger, combining the expertise and scale of an innovative global company with the ‘biotech-like’ entrepreneurial spirit of a start-up. If we are to redefine expectations of care in the most difficult-to-treat diseases, we must bring together the best science with the brightest minds and advance it at the best location wherever and however that may be.

4. Build an environment for innovation to thrive

Innovative partnership agreements can fail in suboptimal organizational setups. True collaboration is more than just gaining access to capabilities – it relies on drawing on each partner’s respective expertise and building the right environment for innovation to thrive. It means working flexibly, welcoming different perspectives and particularly for acquisitions, tapping into the deep understanding that comes from those who have researched and developed an asset from day one. That’s why, at Astellas, we want partners to have a seat at the table so that scientific, operational and commercial decisions can be agreed together.

5. Approach each partnership as unique

Each partnering opportunity is unique. This means a timely and individualized approach to dealmaking, favoring creativity and flexibility, is needed to reach a result that benefits everyone and recognizes the unknowns that often exist with early innovation. Through open collaboration and innovation, we can increase our collective ability to meet the pressing needs of patients.

If you share our passion for innovation, find out more on how we can transform the lives of patients together at https://www.astellas.com/en/partnering.