Roche Seeks Out CNS Prospects




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Video title: Roche Seeks Out CNS Prospects
Released on: December 09, 2008. © PharmaVentures Ltd
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The formation and management of dynamic partnerships has helped Roche to make a name for itself in several therapeutic areas. Sarah Holland describes her aim to make sure that one of these areas is CNS through developing their current clinical pipelines and by finding external innovations that compliment their internal projects. She explains that with all the different science she sources the deal structures vary widely, making sure that the product has the best chance of success.
The structure of CNS pharma partnering within Roche
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaVentures business review here in Melbourne Australia. On this show I have Sarah Holland who is Global Head of CNS partnering at Roche in Basel, Switzerland. Welcome to the Show.
Sarah Holland:
Thank you.
Fintan Walton:
You are part of the Pharma partnering group which goes out to do set up alliances with Biotechnology companies you know the pharmaceutical companies. So before we start on this your specific role can you tell us a little bit about how a Pharma partnering actually structured in within Roche because about just a year ago you restructured, so maybe you could help us understand the structure.
Sarah Holland:
Okay. Well the Pharma partnering group in Roche is a group of about 90 people who work globally. We are based in Basel not only we take in care of we went Shanghai office, so we work as a global team. So I always say to people if you got hold of one person if am a partner will get you to the right person and we are actually sort of Biotech science when you have about 90 people's so it's not so scary as an 80,000 global organization. And we look after the whole precisive element function right from platform technologies in the late future strategic alliances, invests and acquisitions and so on, in licensing, out licensing. About a year ago we actually reorganized our R&D function around five disease biology areas so Oncology, Metabolism,Virology, Inflammation and CNS and to match that Pharma partnering with a small organization and created these new roles in which mine is one so I am the global head of CNS partnering and I look after all to the CNS are edged at which is developed partnering, sit on the management team with alongside me we still have people in charge of the transactions process, the alliance management function and technology acquisitions and so on so we still have the same people doing the same jobs we've slightly reconfigured.
Fintan Walton:
Right so the key thing there is to make sure it's properly aligned with the various therapeutic areas within Rocheso that means did you got access to all those individuals right straight through the research and development process?
Sarah Holland:
What was really nice about the organization is now the portfolio for example in CNS is being managed up to proof of concept by a small cross functional team called the Disease Biology Leadership team and I have very close access to them. So I can bring external innovation in alongside internal innovation and we can really try and build the best possible portfolio for Roche using both internal and external opportunities so it's a very nice a new setup.
Building CNS pipeline.
Fintan Walton:
Right. Now the other thing of clearly with Rocheis that Roche is not that famous for CNS, you are more famous for areas like oncology and so forth so you have got a pretty important job if you're going to build up the pipeline for Roche and CNS .
Sarah Holland:
Absolutely yeah, we have a very rich heritage in CNS but currently we are not so well in that area. We do have what we think is an very exciting clinical pipeline with several first in class molecules some of which had come from partnerships so we think our clinical pipeline is very interesting and if you look our research spending actually between 20 and 25% of our research spending is on CNS so that is sort of indicative the way we are going in the future. I think in the future CNS is going to be a much more important part of the Roche portfolio but clearly we need to get the message out to Biotech's someone looking forCNS Partnerships that's very important.
Fintan Walton:
Right and so building that franchise, building that pipeline as you already say it's important that you get access to the best I suppose but is that mean you're more focused earlier stage opportunities or you know obviously how viable[Ph] late stage opportunities that may be less of those around. So what's the general observation that you see?
Sarah Holland:
Ok what I would say inCNS we got a very clear disease area strategy and being Roche it won't be surprising that we are focusing on areas of very high unmet med medical need looking for really innovative and differentiated medicines that really make a difference to patient's lives. So we have identified disease areas or protective parts of disease treatment algorithms where we think there is a real our unmet med need and we're focusing on those as a high priority areas. So I would say we are looking at you know even early opportunities that we think we are really going to make a difference in those areas. For other areas there is a lower priority we are more opportunistic, we are looking for later stage opportunities with proof of concept. Some areas where there is less of our unmet med need with probably less early is quiet is quiet a sort of rational strategic approach, I would say and we have really worked with discovery colleagues to try and identify what they scientifically believe in. So what the targets and pathways are that we should be prioritizing and really looking for. But we're, always open to opportunistic opportunities because don't we think of everything in science see that was changing so you know we keep our eyes and ears open.
Fintan Walton:
One of the things classic issues forCNS area is as you are more than aware is really getting to understand, get the right clinical end points and so forth so clearly I presume that your group is not just looking for drug entities but you are also looking for other component parts to the clinical process understanding that, so that we can get those drugs through the various stages or different phases of clinical trials. So what's your strategy there?
Sarah Holland:
Well we do believe that having the right biomarkers having the right particularly imaging because you can't really sample the brain you can't see what you are doing to the brain tissue very easily. So we think imaging is a really critical part of drug development and we're trying to be much clever ever how we do proof of concept and really build there in a lots of biomarkers and all the imaging's and we really understand what's going on in the brain Phase II or even Phase I. So for example we do have an alliance with GE healthcare [PharmaDeals ID = 21006]which is helping to develop Nova pelicons[Ph] alongside Novel therapeutics so that we can see what's happening in terms of Receptor occupancy and so on.
Recent alliances and spinoff of CNS portfolio to Synosia.
Fintan Walton:
Right and the other areas are maybe you can give us some examples of some of the other alliances that you have done recently.
Sarah Holland:
Yeah, well for example I think April this year we opted in on the Memory [PharmaDeals ID = 22058], Nicotinic Alpha-7 Agonist program. We are very excited about that. We think it's a first in class molecule for cognition and potentially for negative symptoms in schizophrenia. So it's currently is called Phase IIA to Alzheimer's disease and it's going into phase IIB and we got also in Phase II ends in Cognitive Impairment Associated with Schizophrenia we call it CIAS. So and that's a very nice program. We are very proud of that relationship with Memory.
Fintan Walton:
Right. And so you also have recently few years ago spun out some of your CNS portfolios to a company in California Synosia.
Sarah Holland:
That's right. Yeah, we proud us as being creative and coming out with new deal structures whatever. Basically it's all about what's best for the products and how do we move the product towards the best way I mean create deal structures to do that and in this particular instance Roche had some assets that there, that were very nice molecules you know they have been through with the Roche discovery process, they have nice characteristics but they didn't fit our strategy at that time anymore but we still thought they have value and we found the venture capitalists too also thought the same way and wanted to put money behind them and they also found a good management team who had the ability to develop theCNS molecules in a creative and entrepreneurial way. So what we have done is brought together these three elements the venture capital, the Roche molecules and the CNS expert management into this company called Synosia [PharmaDeals ID = 26167].And it is really interesting to watch how you know these molecules would have just set on the shelf in Roche but now they are moving forward in a very nimble and creative way doing things that perhaps a big Pharma wouldn't have thought of moving forward quickly and of course potentially we will get you know downstream benefit from that and you know rather than sitting on the shelf it now got molecules all reach patients and deliver a value as I said.
Fintan Walton:
So would you be involved in that you are (indiscernable) in that collaboration?
Sarah Holland:
Exactly yes. And I do ever think from platformCNS specific platforms in licensing out licensing M&A and so on in fact we are having a similar type discussion at the moment looking out partnering. So yes very much thing.
The model of alliance management.
Fintan Walton:
So that comes into the other component to doing deals one obviously is to find them, the other is to get them underway and so forth and clearly alliance management comes into play here. So how does alliance management work and particularly with your own activities?
Sarah Holland:
Okay. Well we think alliance management have some critic. I think we were one of the first companies to bring dedicated alliance management into the business developments sort of arena and we build in alliance directors right from the Due Diligence onwards and once we are doing a deal we bring an alliance director on Board , and he will build the relationship with the partner. And very importantly welcome integration because bringing a program you know into a collaboration in the most efficient and speedy way into the Roche processes you know the better you plan and prepare for that you don't lose anytime on the program you keep the product first when you do a specific product. But the alliance director moving forwards really helps to articulate the voice of the partner making sure the partner has a see[Ph] to the table in the relationship. So that always there you know putting that perspective and representing the partner's point of view in discussions which is really helpful. And in terms of my own role I work very closely with alliance directors for our various CNS partnerships because no partnership is ever static you know things are always happening we always need to make new decisions, we are broadening partnerships, we are deciding to move programs forward, we got joint steering committees that have decisions to make you know we are putting you know additional compounds into out partnering relationships.
Fintan Walton:
So all these alliances are dynamic basically?
Sarah Holland:
Exactly, so I am constantly interacting with the Alliance directors and helping them to get input from the disease area to make sure that we moved the alliances forward in the best way with the product and the partner and Roche.
Fintan Walton:
So you, we've talked about spinoffs, we've talked about the alliances themselves but clearly an other alternatives to do acquisitions and where is that fit in your, in this sort of string of priorities for yourself?
Sarah Holland:
Well we have always had this Hub and Spoke model. We always believe that the reason this brilliant innovation occurred was because of this unique contour these each unique individuals in this unique place and time you know and we don't want to necessarily acquire company because that, we like to keep it intact and have it flourish and grow along side us you know that's our kind of concept but we think that's how you, and it compliments it you know we have our own innovation model but a completely different one it adds you know you have a broader a broader access to innovation if you respect your partners uniqueness. So that's our kind of basic philosophy but never the less we have done acquisitions already have done three this year and often what drives that is this is a very exciting technology platform that we think could add value across our broader portfolio in Roche and if we think that we can really see that potential and that's one driver when acquisition. We clearly at the moment we've got investors you know pushing for the acquisition move as well and we have to respond to the environment. Typically it's not our preferred rate you know we actually like to see our unique partners continue to be unique and innovative in their own way that's the model.
Relationships with Genentech and Chugai.
Fintan Walton:
Sure yeah and the other thing of course I mean clearly Roche have got an interesting Genentech and there is an ongoing situation there but and you have also got the Chugai [PharmaDeals ID = 9458-DOI: 10.3833/pdr.v2003i34.933] business in Japan, so how does that work for you? I mean up if both of those organizations obviously things may change in Genentech [PharmaDeals ID = 30853]but how with the normally your what you deal with for your relationships with those two entities.
Sarah Holland:
Okay. We are typically we have an opting[Ph] light at certain point in time on a program so when that point arises we will conduct due delligence and make recommendations to managements about what we recommend you know opting now, defer you know how we should move forward. so we are very accustomed to doing that you know we do a lot of those evaluations.
Fintan Walton:
So if I was a Japanese company, looking over small Japanese biotech company looking to do a deal with Roche do I go to Chugai or do I go straight to Roche?
Sarah Holland:
I think probably if you're looking for an XUX[Ph] Japan partner you go to Roche.
Tough financial environment and changes in Roche's deal strategies.
Fintan Walton:
Yeah okay. So the other thing of course when we look out here into the environment of biotech, biotech's had a tough time even before the we are in the end of 2008 we got financial issues out there in the markets but a lot of people in biotech would say biotech has been having tough time for the last few years been able to do IPOs and so forth but because the financial markets are changing there maybe, maybe more difficult for biotech companies. Is that going to change the way Rochedoes it deals?
Sarah Holland:
I don't really think so. I think we are still focused very much. We believe for the industry we are all focused on high unmet medical needs and innovative medicines and solutions to make a difference in patients lives. We will continue to flourish even in a difficult environment because you know we don't regulator us looking for or under more pressure to deliver safe and effective medicines, pay us to demonstrate they are spending money wisely but we really focus on finding medicines that make a real difference, we think that's the way we will continue to flourish it certainly it seems successful for Roche. So I think we will still be looking for excellence science innovation addresses unmet need and we'll take a longtime view. So I think that we will carry on as we have done I think previously. I think good science will still get funded. That's my belief.
Opportunities at AusBiotech.
Fintan Walton:
Okay and we are obviously here in Australia and you are here at AusBiotech what are you up to?
Sarah Holland:
Well there is probably three different things. What we think we got tremendous respect for Australian science innovations so we are here to find opportunities. We got a group of seven people here scouting for opportunities nearest to the ground.we also we are very privileged to sponsor the AusBiotech excellence awards and this is for individuals who, through their leadership have made a real difference to the biotech industry in Australia will continue to contribute to its growth. We particularly like the fact that it's given for individuals who have shown passion, commitment and enthusiasm because we like those words. We were very proud to participate in that yesterday and also we are meeting with the local academics so we are actually going to visit the Neuroscience Institutes today to visit the professors and understand more about the CNS activities as it is meeting excellentCNS Research going on here in Melbourne and tomorrow we are visiting the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Science is to learn more about innovation in delivery technologies and in pharmaceutical technologies so we are also using the opportunity of being in Australia to meet the academic community as well. So very interested to see how that turns out.
Fintan Walton:
Excellent well Sarah hello and thank you very much indeed for coming on the show. Thank you very much indeed.
Sarah Holland:
Thank you. Thanks.
Sarah Holland
Global Head for CNS Partnering
Sarah Holland is the Global Head for CNS Partnering at Pharma Partnering, Roche Pharmaceuticals based in Basel, Switzerland. Prior to joining Roche, Sarah Holland was Global Brand Director at AstraZeneca for a hormonal agent for breast cancer during US and EU launch. She held various commercial and strategic roles over her ten years there including Global Strategic Planning Manager for early compounds, Pricing Strategist and Health Economist. Sarah's interest in the CNS field dates back to the start of her industry career at Amersham International (now GE Healthcare), where she was International Product Manager for an innovative agent for imaging brain blood flow. Sarah Holland gained her MBA from Manchester Business School, where she was a Visiting Fellow until 2004, and her PhD and first degree at Oxford University.
Roche
Founded in 1896 and headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Roche is one of the world's leading research-focused healthcare groups in the fields of pharmaceuticals and diagnostics. The Roche Group's Pharmaceuticals Division is made up of Roche Pharmaceuticals represented in over 150 countries, and majority shareholdings in Genentech in the United States and Chugai in Japan. Rochecooperates closely with Genentech and Chugai and also maintains licensing or other collaborative agreements with more than 80 companies around the world, giving the Roche wide access to promising experimental medicines and cutting-edge technologies.