Roche: Partnering and Global Activity




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Video title: Roche: Partnering and Global Activity
Released on: December 14, 2009. © PharmaVentures Ltd
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In this episode of PharmaTelevision News Review, Fintan Walton talks with Bardia Akbari, Global Head of Partnering, Inflammation and AutoImmune at Hoffmann-La Roche.

Filmed at AusBiotech 2009, they discuss:

• how Roche differentiates itself from the rest of the pharmaceutical companies
• where Roche is looking to do deals within the world, and its alliances with biotech companies
• what clinical stage products Roche is looking for
• the company’s diagnostics division
• how Roche is working together with personnel from Genentech following Genentech’s acquisition
• Roche’s focus on Asthma, COPD and Rheumatoid Arthritis
• the company’s reason for its Nutley location
The company's reason for its Nutley location
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaTelevision news review here in Melbourne, Australia. On this show I have Bardia Akbari, who is the Global Head of Inflammation and Autoimmune at Roche, welcome.
Bardia Akbari:
Thank you very much for having me.
Fintan Walton:
Bardia Akbari, you are based in Nutley, and as I said you are the Global Head of Partnering for Inflammation and Autoimmune disease.
Bardia Akbari:
Yeah.
Fintan Walton:
Why are you based in Nutley?
Bardia Akbari:
The reason for us based in Nutley because our stakeholders and inflammationautoimmune discovery an early development for Roche and they are based in Nutley. And the reason for that to be able to work very closely with them to support that group of stakeholder, that"s the main reason for us being in Nutley, New Jersey.
How Hoffmann-La Roche is working together with personnel from Genentech following Genentech's acquisition
Fintan Walton:
Okay. Now obviously you"re the global head of partnering?
Bardia Akbari:
That"s correct.
Fintan Walton:
You"re part of the pharma partner group?
Bardia Akbari:
Correct.
Fintan Walton:
So often when people look at, at Roche you"ve now merged with or you"ve acquired Genentech [PharmaDeals ID = 30853], how do you " where do you actually fit within the pharma partnering group?
Bardia Akbari:
Good, our remit of responsibility is to provide Roche in general the Roche Group the best opportunities possible in the area of autoimmune, inflammation and respiratory. So we are responsible to find the best opportunities to bring into Roche for development generally to best, to provide the best medication for patients. We work very closely with our colleagues in Genentech business development and we coordinate, and we communicate, and we collaborate consistently because we think they also bring an excellent scientific background to the table for evaluation and development of the medication.
What clinical stage products Hoffmann-La Roche is looking for
Fintan Walton:
Okay. So clearly you"re in-licensing, you are looking for a partnerships, you are looking for alliances, at what clinical stage do you want to bring in a product, what's your remit does it " it does it can be an early, early stage or can it go all the way through to the Phase III even until you launch product? How far do you go?
Bardia Akbari:
We go as early as possible and as late as possible, we look for the best science possible, so we scout the world. We go to the universities that are very early research and we go to biotech that in Phase II and Phase III, so remit as encompassing any clinical or non-clinical, preclinical asset that exist. We focus on again bring the best possible medicine for the patients in any way possible, so it doesn"t matter at what stage the development is, we look at it when we talk to our partners that is so.
Where Hoffmann-La Roche is looking to do deals within the world, and its alliances with biotech companies.
Fintan Walton:
So the industry is changing, biotech has changed in the sense that " in the sense that financing has been difficult particularly in 2009, have things changed Roche in the way you try and set up alliances with biotechnology companies particularly those ones which are now struggling?
Bardia Akbari:
As I mentioned what is driving our decision primarily is the science and the group of scientific experts that our partner possibly have. Our approach is always been the same to focus on what the partners wants and the change in the financial situation dynamics have not necessarily changed our approach, but we " historically we have all of in very good to come up at very creative deals, to give the partner the opportunity to via the development or commercialization table with us. Those have not changed but I think the partners are much more open to that kind of discussion and that kind of deal.
Fintan Walton:
From, from Roche"s point of view and your own point of view what is the best form of an alliance? Is it a collaborative arrangement or is it one where Roche starts taking an equity stake in the company or is the preferred partnership?
Bardia Akbari:
I would have characterize anything as the best possible, I think every partner is looking for a different objective or a different outcome. And we pride ourselves in being able to work in every kind of set up to work with the partner and have the partner at the table the most partners and all partners wanna be at the table in making decision, and we have been able to work very creatively to come with the deals to give them that seat at the table and work with them, so whatever works with partner usually works for us as well.
Hoffmann-La Roche's focus on asthma, COPD and Rheumatoid Arthritis
Fintan Walton:
So when we look at the area of inflammation and autoimmune disease it's a one handed, it's a very defined area, but equally it's a huge area?
Bardia Akbari:
Absolutely.
Fintan Walton:
so what particular therapy areas or indications are you specifically pulling through into your research?
Bardia Akbari:
There are three areas that I would highlight as a primary interest are asthma, COPD and Rheumatoid Arthritis, to just give you an example of the products that we have in area in Rheumatoid Arthritis we have just recently in Europe launched Actemra a new mechanism of action for treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis in the tradition of being clinical differentiated medicine to the market and that"s what our disease biology area in the area of RA focuses on.
The company's diagnostics division
Fintan Walton:
So the other reputation that Roche has got it's, it's got it's diagnostics division"
Bardia Akbari:
Correct.
Fintan Walton:
how important is marrying diagnostic together with a therapeutic?
Bardia Akbari:
It's extremely important, as we move into the area of personalized healthcare which is the focus for the Roche group in general, we would like to be able to identify the patients respond best to our medications. And as we go after the novel target coming up with a companion diagnostics to identify who those patients are, again are extremely important coming back to the same point and if you identify what patients are responding to our medications we be able to provide the best medicine possible for them.
Fintan Walton:
I mean are you more likely to do a partnership deal with a company that can bring both?
Bardia Akbari:
Absolutely, absolutely. And it"s very important to focus on the Biomarkers and then develop a companion diagnostic for the Biomarkers for the medicines that we bring in; it's a strength that Roche has as a group.
Fintan Walton:
Is it more likely that you are gonna be using antibodies then specifically for therapeutics as well as diagnostic use?
Bardia Akbari:
An antibody and the small molecules are equally in our portfolio, if you look at our portfolio we are almost half, half very well balanced approach to the drug development, so again go after the best medicine possible for antibodies, antibody if's a small molecule if it's a peptide, we"ve after the best medicine possible.
Fintan Walton:
So in terms of the distribution of deals that you do obviously Europe and US are probably the two main areas if you will do deals, we are here in Australia at the moment are you doing deals here in Australia?
Bardia Akbari:
We are looking for deals in Australia, we are looking in -- deals in Asia in general. We have an office in Shanghai that looks after Asia, so for us to look for deals now regionally focused. We focus on our best work that"s being done. We"ll look at the management team of the companies, we will look at their partnership of the companies generally we are looking for a partner that"s willing to sit with us at the table and develop the best medicine, so it doesn"t matter where they are, we look for them everywhere Australia, absolutely.
How Hoffmann-La Roche differentiates itself from the rest of the pharmaceutical companies.
Fintan Walton:
So when it comes down to again looking at the best way in which Roche can position itself against the competition, how would you differentiate Roche to the rest of the, of the pharmaceutical companies? Why should a biotech company even consider going to Roche?
Bardia Akbari:
And if you look at the history of Roche in area of collaboration when we worked with Genentech from 20-years ago and look at the track record of success that we have established with Genentech bringing Avastin [PharmaDeals ID = 13267], bringing Herceptin [PharmaDeals ID = 2910], and bringing MabThera to the market, if you look at our history with dealing atGilead Sciences [PharmaDeals ID = 456] that we bring Tamiflu to the market. And even Actemra or Actemra just recently launched is a product that we developed for Chugai [PharmaDeals ID = 12708]. So just look at the history of success that we have had in collaboration in some parallel in industry we are planning to continue to do the same thing, so I think our track record speaks very loudly of how well we do collaborations.
Fintan Walton:
Fintan Walton, thank you very much indeed for coming on the show.
Bardia Akbari:
Thank you very much for having me.
Bardia Akbari
Global Head of Inflammation and Autoimmune
Hoffmann-La Roche
Hoffmann-La Roche is the US prescription pharmaceuticals unit of Roche. The company develops, manufactures, and markets drugs to treat such life-threatening conditions as AIDS, cancer, and heart disease. Other product categories include central nervous system disorders, organ transplant rejection, and skin conditions. Hoffmann-La Roche products include influenza fighter Tamiflu, cancer drug Xeloda, HIVinhibitor (co-marketed with Trimeris), obesity drug Xenical, and hepatitis B-CtherapyPegasys. Hoffmann-La-Roche R&D is focused on oncology and metabolic, CNS, virology, inflammatory, respiratory, and autoimmune diseases.