Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Smaller Big Pharma and the Hybrid Future

Two R&D Heads are better than one

[Updated below.] Today's final panel at PSA featured the heads of R&D at two of the industry's smaller Big Pharma, Tom Koestler, PhD, EVP and president of Schering Plough Research Institute and Elliott Sigal, MD, PhD, EVP, CSO, and president of R&D at Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.

Sigal suggested the industry's challenges in R&D would be best met by a best-of-both-worlds solution: "Some people in large pharma say, 'I want to be a biotech company', but that's not necessarily a good idea. You need to pick the best of pharma and the best of biotech and move on to a next-generation model," he said. Big biotech, like Amgen and Genentech, similarly need to adopt small-molecule strategies to thrive in the longer term, he noted.

BMS has employed this very strategy, embracing biotech risk hedging strategies in its blockbuster deals with Pfizer and AstraZeneca this year (we wrote about those deals here and here). Tom Koestler noted that Schering-Plough has maintained a handful of joint venture agreements to spread risk--notably that company's cardiovascular partnership with Merck, an asthma and COPD deal with Novartis, and its large-molecule JV with Johnson & Johnson (think Remicade).

So what's it take to embrace this hybrid model? A realization that complete vertical integration is not only not necessary, but perhaps detrimental. Co-development and co-commercialization deals, targeted approaches to geography and customers, streamlining manufacturing, and innovative sales and marketing approaches are all part of the model, according to Sigal. If you've got enough opportunities, why not de-risk the portfolio in high risk or expensive areas like metabolic disease?

"We need a new business model, an evolving business model, and R&D needs to evolve in that direction," Sigal said. "You're never too big that you can't benefit from a good collaboration."

UPDATE: For a look at the WSJ Health Blog's coverage of Koestler and Sigal's talks, click here.

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