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Technology And Collaboration In Drug Discovery And Development Business

Anil Saigal

The TiE-Boston met on Monday, August 18th at the MIT Tang Center to discuss Emerging Opportunities for Technology and Collaboration in the Drug Discovery and Development Business.The panel consisted of Christian Reich, Ph.D, IMT Leader of Clinical and Regulatory Informatics, Millenium Pharmaceuticals; Ron Ranauro Executive Vice President-Worldwide Business Development & General Manager, Gene-IT; Fabian D'Souza, MD, MBA, President, Boston Strategic Partners, Inc.; and Robert N. McBurney, Ph.D, Chief Scientific Officer, Senior Vice President, Research & Development, Beyond Genomics. The event was moderated by Anupam Dalal and was jointly coordinated by the two TiE Special Interest Groups (SIGs): Life Sciences (LS) and Software Service Business Forum (SSBF). There were about 125 people in attendance at this sold-out event. Shailender Yadav welcomed the guests. Anil Khurana in his opening remarks emphasized the difference between innovations and commercializing innovations in biosciences. Commercializing innovation requires a certain kind of asset, money. Innovations in biosciences require complementary assets of people working in different fields and this meeting was a reflection of that.

Christian set the stage rolling by talking about New Challenges with Genomic Data where Clinical Data + Genomic Data = Problem. The different types of problems one deals with are:

Development – reject hypothesis that it is inefficacious and unsafe
Discovery – how can I understand data
Research – what does it tell me about the disease
Clinical – stout
Genomic – tall
Qualities: Biological noise
Technology derived noise Consent
Privacy and other issues. The solution for all these problems are in coordinating the workflow and implementing technology.

Ronald talked about Drug Discovery and Collaboration Strategy. According to him, the Bioinformatic Industry is ‘The Perfect Storm.’ It is oversold which burst with the stock market bubble and lacks innovation. The biotechnology business model is sequential: Target ID .. Validate Targets .. Leads .. Organized Leads .. Preclinical .. Clinical .. Regulatory. Bioinformatics is not biotechnology and one has to quantify how much it is worth to ‘de-select’ a target. In addition, one must understand the dynamics of bioinformatics, which involves: sequence information, dealing with scientists who are not always computer savy but where opportunities abound to do it better, cheaper and faster. In order for a collaboration to succeed, focus on your core strength, understand economics of the customer, eork to bridge financing gap, and clearly outline who owns IPs and who owns the methods.

Fabian discussed the two types of technology collaborations: a) Traditional – between a large and a small compay with a ‘perceived’ common objective, and b) Non Traditional – where there is no ‘perceived’ common objective. Collaborations can take different forms such as licencing, acquisition, co-marketing/co-promotion. In either case, one should expect to receive milestone-based payments. Successful collaboration requires three levers: decision rights, incentives and culture which are intertwined with communications.

Robert’s talk focused on the rewarding but inefficient and expensive Pharma Value Chain. The key elements of the chain are Target Finding and Validation, Drug Candidate Optimization, Animal Modes and Toxicology, Clinical Trials and Marketing. However, it typically costs $ 800M for a new drug of which 75% of cost is from failures and takes 15 years. Even though $ 50B were spent in R&D costs in 2000, new drug approvals was down. As such, any innovation which can lead to reduction in development time equates to billions of dollars in ROI. There is a strong need of more complete information and wider range of tools to develop more effective medicines, sooner and cheaper.

As an example, currently if one tries to develop a new cell phone, 95% of the information needed is known. On the other hand, in biosciences/drug discovery, typically less than 5%of the information needed is known when the process begins.

New collaborations are being announced at a healthy pace. Over the past 15 years, a total of 1848 new alliances were set-up. Pfizer alone entered in 245 new collaborations. According to Robert, some of the enabling technologies are system biology, molecular information science, ‘Molecular Biomarkers’ of disease and drug effects where it is important to link gene with disease not just talk about the gene.

Overall, the speakers were to the point and focused and had good tips for the TiE members.

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