Consortia and Ecosystem Developments in Life Sciences

The following article was written for and published in the most recent edition of Strategic Alliance Magazine, the official organ of the prestigious Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals (A.S.A.P.).

The life sciences sector is one of the most dynamic and innovative industries in strategic alliance development.  Recent trends are revealing exciting new ecosystems and consortia frameworks as multiple stakeholders engage collaboratively in order to address large, complex global health care issues.

For private companies in the industry, success depends largely on focused research & development of new products and technologies. To share costs and mitigate risks, most life sciences companies have learned the value of strategic alliances.

These partnerships tend to be long-term and strategic relationships all along the value chain: research & development, manufacturing, sales & distribution.

The life sciences industry was an early adopter of research collaborations. Today we are witnessing a much broader scope of collaboration: more stakeholders, larger constituencies, more sharing of intellectual property, complex funding across the public and private sectors, and much more technology-driven health care solutions.

What are the new collaborative consortia and how are they being implemented?

A consortium, from ‘consors’ (Latin for ‘partner’) is an association of companies or organizations – private and/or public – formed to participate in a common activity. Most often, consortia function like member firm organizations where each member company and/or trustee contributes funds and resources.

A life sciences consortium is most often formed as a separate legal entity whereby the consortium itself and each individual member firm are bound by contract. Consortia typically provide an independent governance model, neutral third party facilitation, and a framework for a shared data repository.

These advanced partnering solutions are designed to provide all stakeholders with a stronger value proposition than each one could achieve on their own, or through a traditional one-to-one strategic alliance relationships.

Much of the value potential of the ecosystem is in the network itself, and the alliance management function is essential to achieving value creation and reaching the consortium goals and its desired outcomes.

The most exciting developments of the new ecosystems are not the frameworks or the consortia creation, but the fact that the quality of the cooperation and collaboration is improving so quickly and dramatically. We are making progress and life sciences alliance professionals are leading the way!

The Life Sciences Consortium (LSC), for example, is a task force of the CEO Roundtable on Cancer, a non-profit organization created to bring together Chief Executive Officers and their top executives, at the highest level, to work collaboratively towards the elimination of cancer as a public health threat. The list of members reads like a who’s who of the main actors and distinguished scientists of biopharmaceutical companies worldwide.

The LSC was formed in 2005 to build a collaborative platform which enables a transformation in research and development shared activities that will deliver faster, more effective therapies to cancer patients worldwide.

“The Life Sciences Consortium is a powerful group that we can leverage. If companies and organizations come together in a collaborative way, then we can move the ball down the field a lot faster on oncology research.

Through this group, we have recently launched Project Data Sphere, a platform allowing the entire research community broad access to oncology data sets. It will allow them to share, integrate and analyze historical patient level, comparator arm data from academic and industry phase 3 cancer trials. I believe it will help define additional paths to accelerate cancer research”.

Christopher A. Viehbacher, Chairman, CEO Roundtable on Cancer

The sharing of data among researchers affiliated with competing life sciences companies, universities and hospitals, research institutions and independents will enable the entire cancer community to join efforts more effectively and accelerate results. Here are the LSC stated priorities:

  • Decrease the time for patients to enter cancer clinical trials
  • Develop pre-competitive intellectual property for scientific advancement
  • Diminish the regulatory burden of new cancer drug approval

This is one example of consortia development in life sciences which is changing the game and the nature of professional interactions among traditional competitors. It is also facilitating the work between the industrials and the non-government organizations (NGOs) as well as the public health organizations and institutes.

In fact, there are many thousands of new ecosystems and consortia being created and implemented every year in the health care sector, at all levels, and across all geographies.

In North America, many universities have now formed consortia graduate programs specialized in different therapeutic areas, partnering with the pharmaceutical industry and foundations to accelerate and make available early-stage research.

The consortium model aims to introduce academic researchers to the challenges of targeted research and facilitate industry-academic collaborations.

States, regions, municipalities and other smaller but highly effective consortia are up and running, designed to stimulate life science investment, research and education by bridging the private, public and NGO sector boundaries, within their geographic and therapeutic area.

Why are the consortia models so attractive?

The frameworks provide a platform for collaboration which enable sophisticated bridge-building between big pharma, government institutions, foundations, research centers and other local, national and international NGOs.

The Biomarkers Consortium, for example, is a public-private biomedical research partnership managed by the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Its participants endeavor to discover, develop and share qualify biological markers to support new drug development, preventive medicines and diagnostics.

These new collaborative models – consortia, ecosystems, member firm organizations – provide the new frameworks for rapid improvement and acceleration of innovative health care solutions, through better teamwork, best practices and shared data.

The push towards standardized models and common language is also very encouraging. We are seeing consortia in diagnostic standards and medical devices. Negotiation of clinical trial agreements (CTAs) between industry and academic medical centers is one of the barriers to efficient clinical trials.

Standard Terms of Agreement for Research Trial (START) has helped identify common key concepts and clauses to develop model language to avoid unnecessary duplication of effort for each CTA.

The START clauses represent a toolkit that provides standardized legal language for key agreement elements common to most clinical trial agreements. By launching the negotiation process with commonly agreed upon language, the START clauses can simplify and accelerate the contracting process, sometimes by as much as six to eight months.

Foundations have changed the game dramatically, and have also contributed to deeper and better collaboration in the Life Sciences industry. The most famous one in global health care is of course the Gates Foundation and its initial investment funding from Bill & Melinda Gates (Microsoft) and Warren Buffet (Berkshire Hathaway), totaling over $40B.

More important than the trust money (which is huge!) is the rigor with which the formidable health care projects are being selected, implemented and measured, through ecosystem development articulating the global-local paradigm.

The Gates Health Care home page states:

Our job is to get results. We know that our results depend on the quality of our partnerships.

When one of the Gates Foundations projects involved studying the distribution processes of Coca-Cola, many health care professionals balked. But it turns out that many of the logistical processes and parts of the service model can be replicated.

The premise of the study was: if we can deliver a bottle of cold water anywhere in the world, at a reasonable cost, we should be able to do the same with vaccines and other life-saving drugs.

The way the Gates foundation health care projects have navigated complex public-private partnerships (PPP), and improved global-local healthcare distribution processes are fine examples of innovation and alliance excellence.

How are the European consortia faring?

Horizon 20/20 is the biggest European Union Research and Innovation program ever conceived, with nearly €80 billion of public funding available over the next seven years (2014-2020). In addition to the public funds, private investment money has been forthcoming at ever-increasing rates.

One prominent life sciences firm I spoke with has recently doubled its direct financial contributions and project involvement in health care work streams, as measured in Euros (more than €1 billion) and in Resources (headcount – full time equivalents, more than 250 scientists and technicians).

The implications for pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical devices firms within the EU, are enormous. The framework promises more breakthroughs, discoveries and world-firsts by taking great ideas from the lab to the market, faster and more cost effectively than ever before.

The goal is for EU firms to remain competitive through accelerated innovation. The royal path to greater innovation is partnerships, new ecosystems, consortia. The means being deployed are greater public and private investments – direct funds, human resources, materials and facilities, and especially a growing belief in collaborative models as the best path to greater innovation and competitive advantage.

What are other examples of partnering models across industries?

Mobile Health (M-Health) has a very bright future. Mobility is creating a decentralized model of health care where the patient/client/citizen can begin to do many of the preliminary diagnostics in situ (home, office, remote village…). The smart cell phone is ubiquitous and the applications will soon be able to read blood samples, look into eyes and ears, monitor organ functions, etc.

Already chronic disease remote monitoring (CDRM) is bringing together life sciences companies with telecommunications and software firms. The quality of diagnostics and the comfort of the patient, at a drastically lower cost, is a proven concept for this next generation of health care tools.

Ecosystems centered on biotechnology companies, will allow for enormous untapped potential in developing new and better drugs, vaccines, diagnostics and delivery systems for global health care solutions. This is especially important in developing countries where malaria, tuberculosis and other neglected infectious diseases are still quite prevalent (90% of infectious disease is found in the world’s poorest countries).

Health care is one of the rare mobilizing global themes on which we all agree. Outside a few marginal exceptions, everyone in the world wants better quality healthcare, at a lower cost, for as many people as possible: preventive, curative and palliative care.

Global health care is a universal human value and encompasses a unique characteristic of alliance development. Because healthcare and biopharma are patient-centric, the alliance partners can find common ground to benefit not only themselves but also the shared goal of improved patient care as they carry out consortia development.

Consortia development and life science ecosystems are breaking new ground in creating market access, innovative healthcare solutions and strategic alliance development.

The Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals (A.S.A.P.) is a major force in coordinating and driving innovation in alliance management within the life sciences sector for many years.

Several of the world’s largest pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical-device are prominent global members of the Association and I would like to thank the numerous executives and scientists of these companies listed below who provided insight into this article.

Jeremy Ahouse, Director, Alliance Management, Novartis

Aaron Bartlone, Senior Vice President, UCB

Mark Coflin, Executive Director, Global Business Development & Licensing at Novartis Pharma

Susan Dorfman, Chief Marketing, Insights & Innovation Officer at CMI/Compas

Julia Gershkovich, Head of US, R&D Alliance Management at Sanofi

Kenneth Getz, Director, Sponsored Research Programs, Tufts CSDD; Chairman, CISCRP

Sam Gosselin, Director Strategic Partner Management at Biogen

Frank Grams, PhD VP Head Alliance Management & Transactions Sanofi R&D

Gail Jaeger, VP, Strategic Alliances at MedPage Today

Jean-François de Lavison, President at Ahimsa Partners

Philippe Salphati, VP Global Marketing and Commercial Excellence at Sanofi Pasteur (Sanofi Vaccine Division)

Vipula Tailor, Vice President of Business Development & Alliance Management at BERG

Christian de la Tour, V.P. Corporate Business Development at Ipsen

Christopher Viehbacher, CEO Sanofi

Author:  Troy Gautier, Managing Director, Alliances Progress
Troy Gautier is the Founder and Managing Director of Alliances Progress.  He is an expert in ecosystem development and runs a Member Firm organization for multi-party strategic alliances.  Troy is the President of the SE Chapter of ASAP.

Troy J Gautier
Managing Director
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