Feature Stories

Encouraging Partnership and Collaboration to Spur Innovation for Patients

Dec 19, 2017

Hundreds gathered earlier this month in Oxford, England, for the fourth annual Innovation Forum 2017 – Leaders Conference, a global event that promotes scientific innovation by fostering discussion among top leaders from industry, academia and government. The presentations, panels and networking forums at the two-day conference were designed to encourage C-suite executives from the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and healthcare industries to forge partnerships with early-stage ventures, investors and researchers to accelerate the pace of innovation across sectors.

As the conference’s only keynote speaker from the pharmaceutical industry, Bernie Zeiher, president, Astellas Global Development, spoke about open innovation and entrepreneurship. His address offered an industry perspective on how partnership and collaboration play a key role as pharmaceutical companies strive to speed innovation.

Joe Fleishaker, senior vice president, head of Astellas Clinical Pharmacology and Exploratory Development, also attended the conference and spoke on a panel titled "Overcoming Hurdles to Translation – New Models for Technology Transfer and Industry-Academia Partnerships." He discussed the benefits of early engagement between the academic community and industry, which encourages academic researchers to position their work in a way that can be easily transferred to an industry setting.

"On behalf of Astellas, I’m proud to take part in this prestigious conference that fosters the type of innovative collaboration the pharmaceutical industry needs today," Zeiher said. "Innovation continues to thrive in academia and biotechnology, and it is vital that we develop partnerships in those spaces to match their pace of innovation and deliver the best treatments to patients in need."

In his keynote address, Zeiher discussed different partnership approaches that can help spur innovation, explaining that there’s no longer a "one size fits all" partnership strategy. Whether it’s a traditional merger or acquisition, licensing agreement, strategic partnership, joint venture, "outcubation" effort or another approach to collaboration, pharma companies are adapting the way they think about partnering effectively to tackle the public health concerns of the future.

Astellas’ option agreement in 2015 with the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center to develop a new treatment for patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is an example of forward-thinking, cross-sector collaboration. This strategic partnership gives Astellas the opportunity to negotiate an exclusive, worldwide license of the treatment, with studies being conducted by MD Anderson, bringing together the capabilities and strengths of both organizations to investigate a potential therapy for patients with AML.

"Pharma leaders today are tasked with the need to innovate at a faster pace than ever," Zeiher said. "To deliver the best possible treatment options to patients, the industry needs to tackle this challenge head on and embrace new models for drug discovery. We all need to look for creative, new ways to partner with others to create solutions. We’re facing challenges that are too complex for one organization to solve alone."