Co-Opetition in Drug Development - Pharmaceutical Technology

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Co-Opetition in Drug Development
The author suggests co-opetition as a future model for collaboration in drug development.

Pharmaceutical Technology
Volume 37, Issue 5, pp. 72-73

Drug repurposing: tapping academia for new ideas

Another area of burgeoning collaboration is between pharma companies and academic organizations, companies are looking for alternative uses for failed or unexploited compounds. To get fresh ideas from the outside, they are enlisting the help of academia.

To this end, Roche has allied with the Broad Institute of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)/Harvard, and AstraZeneca with the UK's Medical Research Council. In another example, 10 pharma companies are partnering with the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) on discovering new therapeutic uses for existing molecules. An earlier-stage program recently launched in Europe under the Innovative Medicines Initiative, with seven pharmaceutical companies pooling compounds from in-house libraries.

Involving outside parties in drug development raises questions about areas such as intellectual property and data ownership, publication rights, and timeline management. Industry has experience in third-party collaborations, including those with academia, and all of these potential issues can and should be addressed in the contracts between the parties.

ViiV Healthcare: collaboration to address a single disease

In a different model, GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer founded ViiV Healthcare in 2009 as a commercial enterprise to focus on delivering advances in HIV treatment. Shionogi joined in 2012. Such a construction combines the complementary capabilities and pipelines of the member companies to deliver the financial strength and global reach to invest in the development of new HIV medicines. As with any joint venture, there are many details that must be agreed by contract and in spirit, for example assigning the initial and future value to each company's portfolio, agreeing to the proportion of equity ownership, and accounting for revenues and investments.

Further co-opetition opportunities

If an activity affects the whole pharma industry but does not lead directly to the creation of a new molecule that is differentiated in efficacy, safety, and cost-effectiveness, that activity is a candidate for co-opetition. For this co-opetition to be truly successful, pharma companies will need to be willing to share more than they might have felt comfortable doing in the past while defining good workable contractual frameworks to govern these new relationships with each other and with third parties.

If they can achieve this model successfully, and patient confidentiality and data protection between parties are ensured, we could expect new collaborations to form in more commercially sensitive areas, such as regulatory submission and compliance frameworks, genomic-data analysis, and sales and marketing.


1. FDA, Innovation or Stagnation: Challenge and Opportunity on the Critical Path to New Medical Products (March 2004),, accessed Apr. 15, 2013.

2. TransCelerate BioPharma,

Ed Currie is associate vice-president in the life sciences practice at Infosys in Basel, Switzerland,


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