Greg Wiederrecht, Vice President and Head of the External Scientific Affairs elaborates on Merck`s adaptability to externalization




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Video title: Greg Wiederrecht, Vice President and Head of the External Scientific Affairs elaborates on Merck`s adaptability to externalization
Released on: May 18, 2011. © PharmaTelevision Ltd
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In this episode of PharmaTelevision News Review, Fintan Walton talks to Greg Wiederrecht, Vice President of Worldwide Licensing & External Research at Merck
Activities and responsibilities of External Scientific Affairs group
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaTelevision News Review here at Bio-Europe in Milan, Spring 2011. On this show I have Greg Wiederrecht, who is Vice President of External Scientific Affairs at Merck & Co, welcome to the show.
Greg Wiederrecht:
Thank you.
Fintan Walton:
Greg, you belong to the worldwide licensing group at Merck you're part of the organization obviously you deal with the externalization of research and development in other words the scientific advances that are available to Merck through your collaborations and so forth, today in 2011 those activities are they as strong as they were two-years ago, five-years ago?
Greg Wiederrecht:
I think they are stronger than they were five-years ago, so since our merger with Schering-Plough [PharmaDeals ID = 32697] and despite our research budget of about $8.5 billion externalization remains as important if not more important than ever before after all we have to feed a much larger company with innovation and the licensing group has actually grown in size since the merger. So both legacy Schering-Plough and legacy Merck people make up the licensing group and head of our licensing group is a legacy Schering-Plough employee.
Fintan Walton:
Okay, so the scientific affairs component what is the remit how far do you go in terms of cap looking at a particular opportunity do you stop of it Phase II or where do you how far do you, what far is your remit?
Greg Wiederrecht:
So our group External Scientific Affairs is responsible worldwide for identifying and scientifically assessing all licensing opportunities from very, very early stage and even technology, technology basic research collaborations, preclinical candidates all the way through the clinic and including acquisitions, so we are about 84 people in our group just on the find and filter piece and we cover all the basis.
Fintan Walton:
And as you said you are worldwide you've got your scouts around the various parts of the world capture those particular opportunities, so you've said you have expanded your group so that is that mean you are now looking at more opportunities than you did in the past?
Greg Wiederrecht:
We are looking at even more opportunities than we ever have over the past couple of years we've actually looked at about 75, 100 opportunities each year which represents an uptick from before the merger.
Fintan Walton:
Right, so what's important there obviously the last few years a lot of biotechnology companies have found it more difficult to raise money and finance, has that affected the quality of the opportunities that you see?
Greg Wiederrecht:
We are finding high quality opportunities over the last several years we've managed to execute about 50 major agreements each year so about 250 major agreements over the past five-years and we there is more great stuff out there that we have the resources to bring it so far, so it's certainly not the outside that's rate limiting.
Fintan Walton:
Right, and when you are talking about, we are talking about quality one of the things that Merck has talked about is looking for first-in-class and best-in-class could you tell us what do you mean by those two terms?
Greg Wiederrecht:
Sure first-in-class opportunity to us is an opportunity that for which our clinical proof of concept has not yet been established or and for which there is no marketed drug and historically Merck has been very strong in the first-in-class area, we've got a legacy of innovation also though we want to be in the best-in-class phase, so you know historically we have not done as many follow-on molecules as some of our competitors we want to get a little stronger in that area so that does not mean we are less interested in first-in-class so going forward strong in first-in-class and stronger in follow-ons and best-in-class is our strategy.
Fintan Walton:
Right, so you are quite happy to be the next product coming on the market as long as is best-in-class?
Greg Wiederrecht:
That's correct.
Relationship with Barbara Yanni's group
Fintan Walton:
Yes, so just going back to how your part of the organization works with the remaining part of Merck's business development function, so just to be clear about what's your function is could you describe what that is and how that fits in with other parts like where which Barbara Yanni is involved in?
Greg Wiederrecht:
So External Scientific Affairs is in the Merck Research Labs division of Merck & Co and all the scouts are scientists and who are medical doctors by training and it's their responsibility to identify opportunities they are non-transactional they don't do deals or get involved in the actual deal. Their job is to roam or patrol their territories for opportunities that are aligned with Merck's interests they send them into the External Scientific Affairs groups at our headquarter sites and we scientifically assess them with other subject matter experts in the labs. We have an excellent cross divisional relationship with Barbara Yanni's group which is in finance and they are responsible for negotiating the terms and negotiating the big deals, however our scientist from External Scientific Affairs is always at the negotiating table to handle such items as the work plan or any technical issues which are always are in a contract, so a minimum deal team at Merck could be a person from Barbara Yanni's group leading the negotiations, a person from our group handling the scientific issues and a lawyer that will be the minimum deal team.
Merck's adaptability to externalization
Fintan Walton:
Right and in terms of, I mean we don't often talk about large corporations like Merck having a culture of you know taking products into Merck has that culture changed, I mean genuinely changed in it's in Merck's ability adaptability to take on products from outside or the opportunities from outside?
Greg Wiederrecht:
You know it's a very good question, so over the I think I would say 10 or 15-years ago outsiders might have perceived us as being a little bit insular but there has been a huge cultural change that came all the way down from the top of the organization, now everyone is very excited about going to the outside and get opportunities and we set up our reward system so that irrespective of whether you are working at the bench and you are delivering a molecule or you are spending your time looking outside for items in your area of expertise and there are equal rewards irrespective of whether the molecule comes from your bench or from the outside the point is to bring in the best molecule and take it forward.
Fintan Walton:
And even in the last three-years has that changed out, is that have you improved even over last three years?
Greg Wiederrecht:
I think so, yes I think so there is a any hold outs for doing everything internally are pretty much been eliminated and everybody is interested and excited about externalization particularly in the sourcing area there has been an often lot of sourcing from the outside from some of the big chemistry providers such as Louise and others of their peers and we will actually you know may be our targets were very interested in doing internally, but we don't have the resources to well externalize the whole frame among various sourcing providers, I won't consider that licensing, but it's a good example of new trend toward externalization so both licensing and a lot more sourcing.
Fintan Walton:
Sure, and just finally in terms of decision to acquire for a system to license how is that made?
Greg Wiederrecht:
It's made about what makes the economic sense.
Fintan Walton:
Simple as that?
Greg Wiederrecht:
Yes.
Fintan Walton:
Greg, thank you very much indeed for coming on the show.
Greg Wiederrecht:
Thank you for inviting me.
Fintan Walton
Dr Fintan Walton is the Founder and CEO of PharmaVentures . After completing his doctoral research on the genetics of cell proliferation at the University of Michigan(US)and Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland), Dr Walton gained broad commercial experience in biotechnology in management positions at Bass and Celltech plc (1982-1992).
Greg Wiederrecht
Vice President
Dr. Greg Wiederrecht , is the Vice President and Head of the External Scientific Affairs department of the Merck Research Laboratories division of Merck & Co., Inc. where he has been employed for the past 20 years. External Scientific Affairs is responsible for the scientific assessment of all licensing, partnering, and acquisition opportunities for Merck. Dr. Greg Wiederrecht 's responsibilities include the management of a group of 80 scientists and administrators, distributed worldwide and divided by various therapeutic and platform areas, who identify and assess opportunities outside of Merck's walls. Dr. Greg Wiederrecht holds a B.S. degree from the University of California, Irvine and a PhD in biochemistry from M.I.T. Before joining Merck in 1989, he was a Helen Hay Whitney Post-Doctoral Fellow and an American Cancer Society Senior Post-Doctoral Fellow at Caltech.
PharmaVentures
PharmaVentures is a corporate finance and transactions advisory firm that has served hundreds of clients worldwide in relation to their strategic deal making in the pharmaceutical, life science and healthcare sectors. Our key offerings include: Transactions / deal negotiations; Product / technology valuations; Deal term advice; Due diligence & expert reports; Strategy formulation; Alliance management; and Expert opinion for litigation/arbitration cases. PharmaVentures provides the global expertise to ensure our clients generate the highest possible return on investment from all their deal making activities. We have experience of all therapeutic areas and can offer advice on both product and technology commercialisation.
Merck & Co
Merck & CoInc.,a global health care company, discovers, develops, manufactures, and markets medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, and consumer and animal products. The company focuses with wide range of products in Pharmaceutical, Animal health and Consumer health segments. Merck serves drug wholesalers and retailers, hospitals, government agencies, physicians, as well as managed health care providers, such as health maintenance organizations, pharmacy benefit managers, and other institutions. Merck & Co.,Inc. was founded in 1891 and is headquartered in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey.