Big Pharma Leverages Early-Stage Risk with Innovative Options

April 2, 2013
Rita C. Peters
Rita C. Peters

Rita Peters is editorial director of Pharmaceutical Technology, Pharmaceutical Technology Europe, and BioPharm International.

Pharmaceutical Technology Europe

In recent years, large pharmaceutical companies have launched a variety of initiatives to restock ailing pipelines and boost business performance including mergers and acquisitions, diversifying business portfolios to non-pharmaceutical products, downsizing, spinoffs, and entering the biopharmaceutical arena.

In recent years, large pharmaceutical companies have launched a variety of initiatives to restock ailing pipelines and boost business performance including mergers and acquisitions, diversifying business portfolios to non-pharmaceutical products, downsizing, spinoffs, and entering the biopharmaceutical arena.

Whatever the approach, pharmaceutical companies want balanced portfolios with programs at various stages and risk profiles, says Melinda Richter, founder and CEO of San Francisco-based Prescience International in a BioPharm International podcast.

To date, most Big Pharma companies have partnered or acquired assets of biopharmaceutical companies with products in late-stage development, says Richter. However, as the availability of late-stage development opportunities shrink and the landscape becomes more competitive, Big Pharma is turning to more early-stage partnerships with academia and early-stage companies.

It is attractive to for the pharmas to go after early-stage companies because “by nature, they are smaller, they are nimbler, and they are willing to take the risks that the large pharmas just can’t. These small companies have to swing for the fences and they have to win. Pharmas have a lot to protect. They have to be more conservative,“ says Richter.

More scalable innovation opportunities are another part of the story, says Richter.

For example, last year, Merck announced a $90 million, seven-year commitment for the California Institute for Biomedical Research (Calibr), an independent, not-for-profit organization established to accelerate the translation of basic biomedical research to innovative new medicines.

However, for hands-on research, startup companies need laboratory and office space, as well as specialized equipment. Janssen Labs, located on the West Coast Research Center of Janssen Research & Development in La Jolla, Calif., offers short-term leases on wet laboratory and office space.  Tenants also have access to core research facilities and instruments.

The facility, operated by Prescience International, has a “no strings attached” policy. Janssen R&D does not take an equity stake or first right of refusal in the work of tenants, protecting the entrepreneurial rights of startup companies that choose independence.

Janssen Labs and Calibr are two options offered by Big Pharma that will be explored in the session “And Now for Something Completely Different: How Will Pharma Access External Early-Stage Innovation?” at the 2013 BIO International convention on April 23, 2013.

 

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