Is ‘closed-shop’ innovation a threat of new therapies and the fate of some pharma?

by Dr Fintan Walton, CEO, PharmaVentures.

After nearly 40 years in the pharmaceutical industry, I believe pharmaceutical companies have still not got it quite right when it comes to innovation

In the 1990’s and 2000’s, there was considerable M&A amongst pharmaceutical companies. A largely fragmented industry underwent a significant process of consolidation so that the acquiring companies could achieve market dominance and efficiencies of scale. There was great debate about whether these goals were ever achieved. Since then, pharma companies have acquired or merged with the more mature biotech companies who have a market dominance in a particular field. These strategies often provide short term temporary solutions to a pharmaceutical company wishing to maintain its market position. Nevertheless, market dominance amongst pharmaceutical corporations no longer begins in the commercial marketplace, but at the very early stages of innovation.

Today, market dominance is achieved by selling products that are wholly exclusive to the successful company, i.e., through patent protection. Patents protect the pharmaceutical company from competition, or at least from drugs that infringe the claims within the relevant patents. Patents, by definition, are non-obvious inventions and drugs are often protected not by one patent but by several. So typically, a pharmaceutical company’s strength and market dominance is its ability to identify and gain access to patents that are commercially viable. This is not a simple task.

For nearly 30 years, PharmaVentures has been very active in helping both emerging biotech companies and larger pharmaceutical companies to partner around innovation. We have seen how pharmaceutical companies have become more sophisticated in their partnering strategies and processes. VCs and pharmaceutical companies now work more closely together, with the venture arms of pharma co-investing alongside VCs. This was a proposition I put to several pharmas 20 years ago and it was quickly adopted.

However, I am not convinced the industry has got it right yet. My observation is that pharma companies have become complacent and are posing a great threat to their market position. The close partnering between pharma and VCs has just created a bubble where convergent thinking occurs, mantras develop, and new ideas are more difficult to accept. If anything, companies have become more risk adverse as a result, despite partnering sooner. Innovation thrives where there are no barriers and closed bubbles. Fortunately, we at PharmaVentures provide access for our clients into all the significant pharma and biotech companies. However, by actively working more closely with firms like us, where we are continuously accessing hundreds of innovative companies worldwide and carefully listening to the opportunities within our portfolio, pharma companies, in my view, are more likely to gain access to exclusive innovation, develop better therapies and gain a greater share of the future market.

Vaccines, patents and supply

by Dr Fintan Walton, CEO, PharmaVentures.

In my experience, quick fix solutions to complex issues are usually founded on a total misunderstanding of the problem causing the issue at hand, and if implemented result in, at best, no solution at all and, at worst, result in long-term damage. Such is the case with the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO’s) proposed solution to the vaccine roll out and distribution world-wide. Their solution is a proposed temporary waiver on the holders of patent rights to COVID-19 vaccine patents on the basis that such a waiver would result in an immediate speeding up of the vaccine roll out.

There are two fundamental problems with their proposal:
First, the problem is one of global manufacturing capabilities, not patent rights. There is quite simply a shortage of biopharmaceutical manufacturing facilities and skills worldwide. We know that because, for the past 20 years, PharmaVentures has been helping companies sell and find such manufacturing facilities; there are simply very few around, largely due to the significant rise in the demand for biopharmaceutical products. So, to simply build new ones, owned and run by those lacking the skills, would take many years and therefore would not be the immediate short-term solution to vaccine production and roll out. Even if these manufacturing facilities were abundant, and there was a patent waiver, or a non-exclusive royalty-free license given to third parties, the skills and know-how to manufacture these new vaccines are simply not easily transferable in the short-term. Even those who possess all the patent rights and have all the necessary skills and know-how to manufacture are struggling to manufacture optimally against demand. The best solution, in my opinion, would be for governments of all nations, maybe through COVAX, to provide financial support to existing manufacturers to improve, optimise and expand their manufacturing facilities in return for their vaccines to be supplied at lower cost. Furthermore, those countries that have a demand for vaccine, and are seeking a higher supply of vaccine, should focus on the complex logistics of the vaccine roll out so that every village and hamlet in their country is vaccinated rapidly.

Second, waiving patent rights interferes with the most important driver for innovation in medicine. Readers of Termsheet already know that patents provide confidence for investors that their risk in investing in new technologies will be rewarded through short-term market exclusivity. To put future uncertainty on the strength of patents through future government interference would undermine that confidence and weaken our ability to find future therapies for debilitating diseases.

PharmaVentures’ Industry Insight: We predict that licensing and partnering activity will remain steady in 2020

As we all know deal making is the life and blood of the biopharma industry and today this activity is truer than ever. In my experience of thirty years in deal making, companies who were most active and persistent in their deal making activity through both ups and downs tend to be more successful. An analysis of licensing after the 2007/8 crash shows that sentiment was shared by the industry as there was little let up in both the number of deals done and the upfront values negotiated. In fact, licensing has brought the biggest rewards to the most active licensors and licensees. Significant research has been funded by both venture capital and pharma licensing deals over the past 30 years which has given rise to significant breakthroughs in treatments for the greatest areas of unmet clinical need. The pipelines of pharma rely more than ever on innovation coming from smaller venture-backed biotech companies. This significant and diverse resource from biotech companies of patented technologies and products provides the lowest form of risk for the larger pharma companies building their vital clinical pipelines.

As drug development is a long-term effort pharma companies realise that their future superior commercial position and competitiveness in the post-pandemic market will be based on the deals they do today and not the ones they have delayed to tomorrow. They understand that delaying decisions on opportunities will only allow their competitors to seize the best ones. Additionally, they realise delaying will eat into the valuable patent lifetime and the consequent loss of revenue of these technologies and products.

Most biotech companies understand that stalling their out-licensing activities will result in their products losing their innovative appeal and become less attractive to pharma companies and at best be placed at the back of the line when they eventually go out to partner. The resulting lack of interest from pharma could impede further rounds of equity investment as these often go hand-in-hand.

We are currently running over 20 licensing and M&A mandates on behalf of clients and have seen continued activity across the board. This is because our industry is truly global, and we are used to working as teams across significant distances and time zones. With advances in communication technology lockdowns and working from home should not impede our ability to do deals as a significant part of the processes and analytics are done virtually these days or are outsourced to specialized advisors. Those that continue dealing making will be in pole position to be successful.

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About PharmaVentures

PharmaVentures is a premier transaction advisory firm; a world leader in partnering, M&A deals and strategic alliances. For the past 28 years, PharmaVentures has acted as advisor on over 700 deal related projects covering licensing, mergers, acquisitions, divestments and joint venture activities for companies world-wide.

Our unrivalled bank of specialist experience, deal analytics and network of contacts among innovators and large pharma makes us uniquely placed to support your business in all aspects of deal making and strategic planning. PharmaVentures is well known for its deep insight into deal structures and its success for generating partnering interest.

Our services include:

– M&A (divestments, mergers, acquisitions and strategic transactions)

– Strategy (commercialisation, deal strategy, due diligence, market entry)

– Valuation and Positioning (licensing, M&A, fund raising & expert testimonies)

– Licensing (in and out licensing)

– Expert Testimony (patent infringement, deal disagreements, taxation, determining damages)

– Fundraising

PharmaVentures is based in Oxford, UK, and employs over 20 professionals and has associates in N. America, Latin America, Asia-Pacific.

For further information, contact:

Dr Fintan Walton, CEO

PharmaVentures Ltd

T: +44 1865 332 700

E: enquiries@pharmaventures.com

PharmaVentures are Media Partners at the World Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine Congress 2015

PharmaVentures and PharmaTelevision are delighted to be Media Partners at the World Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine Congress 2015.

Dr Adrian Dawkes will be recording a series of interviews for PharmaTelevision with key people attending what looks to be a very exciting event.

 

A decade on and still strong: London celebrates the 10th anniversary of World Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine Congress.

2005. What a year!

London was overjoyed at being elected as host city for the 2012 Olympics, but also devastated by the July 7th terror attacks. The death of Pope John Paul II, that same year, marked the end of an era in the life of the Roman-Catholic Church whilst in Germany, Angela Merkel becomes their first female Chancellor. 2005 also played host to Hurricane Katrina in the United States when it flooded New Orleans, the launch of YouTube and it is where Terrapinn’s stem cell story starts.

A decade later and it is a delight to be celebrating the 10th anniversary of an event that was key to the foundations of this medical revolution.

10 years ago when we launched the World Stem Cells Congress, the stem cells sector was one of scientific interest. Focussing on the challenges of how to transform the cells, this conference and exhibition was quite small and the topic area quite niche. Attracting only around 80 people, word of the industry’s potential had not yet reached the masses”, says Derek Cavanagh, Project Manager of World Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine Congress 2015. He goes on to speak about how in about 2010 the sector underwent an important transition. Key industrial players as well as leading pharma companies had come to realise the commercial opportunities with stem cells, which would change the sector moving forward. 

This in turn was when the event would shift in focus from solely science to incorporate the commercial aspects as well. Both translational medicine and regenerative medicine were added to the conference programme, and an emphasis on achieving market access was enabling successful commercial development within the industry. As industry challenges shifted towards lack of investment and scaling up manufacturing and distribution, discussions moved on to the new business models that were coming into practice as the stem cell sector developed and moved away from traditional pharma models, which would inevitably catapult the industry to where we are now.

What is now the World Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine Congress is proud to be welcoming an audience of around 600 attendees to London this May. “This year we will be introducing additional content on tissue engineering and organ regeneration as well as the collocated Investor Forum and Cord Blood World Europe. Delegates will be able to hear and learn from over 70 speakers across the 3 days as well as partake in hundreds of meetings on-site as collaborations become key to commercial success of the industry” explains Hannah Yates, Conference Manager, World Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine Congress 2015.

With a large volume of business generated over the years at this event, key industry supporters such as Cell Therapy Catapult, GE Healthcare and Lonza, and leading keynote presentations from the likes of Chris Mason, Perry Karsen, Keith Thompson, Michael May and Susan Solomon, World Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine Congress is where the cell therapy and regenerative medicine sectors come to do business.

For more information, see the brochure at terrapinn.com /StemCellsBrochure

Event information:

10th Annual World Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine Congress 2015

20 – 22 May 2015

Business Design Centre, London, UK