Opinion: There’s value in bringing ‘Big Pharma,’ S.D. biotech industry
By Joe Panetta
BIOCOM recently held its first Global Life Science Partnering Conference, in which the leaders of Southern California’s biotechnology community and representatives of large pharmaceutical companies were brought together to fuel the alliances that are the lifeblood of the region’s drug discovery industry.
For three days, attendees from small biotech, large biotechs and Big Pharma participated in panel discussions on everything from biotech company shareholder activism, to in-licensing models used by pharmaceutical companies. More than 240 people attending the conference networked at receptions and dinners, and, most importantly, sat down face-to-face in dozens of pre-arranged meetings to consider collaborative opportunities in product development.
San Diego is fortunate to have the most innovative biotechnology community in the world. Also part of the community are research and development operations from most of largest pharmaceutical companies in the U.S., including such well-known names as Merck, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Eli Lilly. That’s quite an impressive list on its own, but add to this the presence of foreign giants such as Novartis, Teva and Sanofi-Aventis and it becomes obvious that something is happening here that is most attractive to “Big Pharma.” The attendees at BIOCOM’s Global Partnering Conference confirmed, for me, the importance of this presence in San Diego.
Partnering dollars account for half the financing brought into the region’s life science cluster. But it’s not just the funding that make the collaboration of biotech and Big Pharma so appealing. By bringing together the expertise of the small biotech, usually concentrating on a narrow disease area, with the broad expertise, equipment and experience of Big Pharma, one can begin to imagine the innovative drug and therapeutic development taking place right here.
These partnerships also lead to acquisitions that further strengthen the region’s life sciences. For example, Pfizer acquired Agouron Pharmaceuticals and Idun Pharmaceuticals. Eli Lilly acquired Applied Molecular Evolution and Structural Genomics and Merck acquired Sibia Neurosciences and Corvas. Each of these pharma companies established itself here as a result of one of these acquisitions. Their presence continues to contribute to the research, talent and diversity of the biotech community. These companies also integrate themselves into BIOCOM and other business-supporting organizations, bringing with them expertise in public policy and advocacy. They create licensing opportunities, bringing needed capital to small biotechs while improving their own pipeline of innovative technologies.
The acquisitions also provide the real opportunity for small biotech companies to see their research efforts come to fruition through development and commercialization arrangements that many companies could not fund exclusively. With the growth of collaborations between small biotechs and Big Pharma, I see a brighter future for patients everywhere.
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