R&D and Business Development working together at AstraZeneca for better results.




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Video title: R&D and Business Development working together at AstraZeneca for better results.
Released on: April 11, 2012. © PharmaTelevision Ltd
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In this episode of PharmaTelevision News Review, filmed in Amsterdam at BioEurope Spring 2012, Fintan Walton talks to Christoph Pittius, VP Strategic Partnering & Business Development CVGI and Gunnar Olsson, VP & Head CVGI Global R&D of AstraZeneca
AstraZeneca's new process of collaboration between R&D and Business development
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaTelevision News Review, on this show I have two gentlemen from AstraZeneca AB both working in the area of cardiovascular and GI gastro intestinal, here I have got Christoph Pittius who is Vice President of Business Development and next to him is Gunnar Olsson who is the Vice President of Research and Development welcome to both of you.
Christoph Pittius:
Thank you.
Gunnar Olsson:
Thank you.
Fintan Walton:
Now you are here to talk about things that have happened at AstraZeneca AB in recent times particularly in a way research and development is done from both in internal and external point of view and I suppose Christoph you represent the external reach and obviously Gunnar you look at the overall internal research and development but obviously also from a collaborative point of view looking at how the external research is done, so that's just to capture that so I am gonna have the first question for you Christoph which is to describe to me how things have changed at AstraZeneca and how your role is played now.
Christoph Pittius:
We have recently incited a new process in AstraZeneca which is a very close collaboration between the traditional business group and the external research group inside the R& D organization. We have actually taken a number of very highly qualified scientists that used to do internal research and cast them with focusing on external research so these people work in tendon with us we actually call it hunting in pairs to go out with business department to be a part in conferences to be out faced to the external companies and identify opportunities with these external scientists in the lead business department being part of those teams and those teams then go out and analyse the opportunities to what we call the fact finding and move the process further in our decision making timeline upto a stage a where we say the fact finding goes over into the case of the situation of the business case, when the business case comes the traditional business development group takes over but still keeps these scientists that are focused on external opportunities as part of our team while we drive the opportunity through the negotiation and due diligence upto closure and that has the advantage that we involve those scientists all along the value chain and the scientists will then have an eye toward alliance management they will be involved in alliance management when the deal is signed. So with this process we have a continuous process that involves both R &D and business development and it doesn't create a strict boundary when external companies would have to shift from talking to one group and then talking to an entirely different group and we feel that is a process that makes it easier.
Success of the new relationship structure
Fintan Walton:
So there is a proper continuum through the relationship right and from your point of view Gunnar how do find that is working out?
Gunnar Olsson:
I think it's working very well. The key thing for us that is that we need to be on the pipeline in the cardiovascular and gastro intestinal space and we need to be agnostic of where do we find the best innovation if it is inside ofcourse then we take it if it is from the outside we need to take it and that's why it is so important that we have both the internal part and the external part working hand in hand so that we can make the judgment which are the best products.
Fintan Walton:
And from your perspective Christoph I go to you again obviously going out there it is competitive landscape looking for products, has the changed AstraZeneca made it in relative terms easier to do deals?
Christoph Pittius:
I would say so actually there is an example a very recent example of a deal that was done as a result of this new structure which is a co-development and co-promotion deal with a Chinese company Chi-Med which is a subsidiary of Hutchison MediPharma [PharmaDeals ID = 44597], the first co-promotion and co-development deal of a Chinese discovered compound that actually came to our attention because those scientists at in front out there in the field had become aware of this opportunity so we broadened our reach by being everywhere at the same time.
Quality standards for internal and external research programs
Fintan Walton:
And from your point of view Gunnar the quality of research is done externally and obviously you are very used to the internal standards that you have always adopted at AstraZeneca and Astra before, what is the quality these days when you look at the research programs that are being offered to you from outside?
Gunnar Olsson:
Of course that there is all levels but of course we really focus on where we see that that science is really to the top level and I think that it's absolutely clear that science is done across the globe and there we need to be very very humble and the large company to see that very good science and very good innovation keep coming from anything from academic groups to small biotechs to mid-sized pharma and peer pharma and we need to be open to seek alliance wherever the good science and the good innovation is.
Christoph Pittius:
May be I can add to that because Gunnar already mentioned that we apply the same standards to internal and external projects but one particular piece that might be of interest is that the process that we follow we call "five R" the five Rights which is the Right Target, the Right tissue and distribution, the Right safety, the Right patients and also the Right Commercial, so we look at all these aspects in a new opportunity and which are the same standards for internal opportunity and we check them off and see whether an opportunity fulfills our needs and then we move forward with that.
Gunnar Olsson:
And I would also add that in that management team which I am chairing we review both internal and external opportunities mainly but we really have one standard and that's what I think is a very good thing.
Monitoring innovation opportunities across globe and role of MedImmune Ventures
Fintan Walton:
Right so obviously innovation in a sense is opportunistic it is something that comes about it's not it pops up around the world as you say rather globally and for a company like AstraZeneca who is gonna try and tap into that is the organization such now that you can actually monitor very carefully where great innovation is taking place?
Christoph Pittius:
I will say a we have a global reach and we are represented in over 100 countries of the world but this global reach is really paired with local knowledge and specifically for business development we have a sub organization of our business development which is called regional and corporate business development and those colleagues are located in different areas all over the world and they have direct access to the innovation in those places.
Fintan Walton:
And how important is MedImmune Ventures to all of these does that play an important role?
Christoph Pittius:
MedImmune Ventures is a little bit stand alone organization they have access to all those early innovation but there is a firewall in terms of confidentiality because they are representing the investor side of things but what they do is when they become aware of unique opportunities rather than making us aware of them they will tell their partner why don't you talk to AstraZeneca talk to this and that person they might be interested in this and then we talk from there.
Fintan Walton:
So they are introducers rather than anything else?
Christoph Pittius:
Yes.
Collaboration with BMS
Fintan Walton:
Now Gunnar you have also been involved in a major collaboration between AstraZeneca and BMS [PharmaDeals ID = 26257], could you tell us about that collaboration and the basis of it and why have two major pharmaceutical companies got together to do this research.
Gunnar Olsson:
We have a collaboration with BMS since 2007 [PharmaDeals ID = 26257] it includes two late stage diabetes products. In order to understand one of the key drivers here that is to really look at what is it to go into the diabetes space diabetes scenario of tremendous unmet medical needs just as we speak here more than 360 million patients with diabetes round the globe and a large proportion is still not well controlled and we see that the prospect here is that 2030 it will be around 550 million people so a huge problem from a disease point of view, at the same time we have seen complexity coming into developing new drugs in diabetes based on the net analysis that was produced around 2007 by Cleveland Clinic putting a question mark about the safety of well known drug Avandia and that triggered a lot of scientific and also political discussions that ended up with FDA really tightening the guidelines for how to develop new drugs for diabetes and that means that there is really a need to not just show glycemic control of the drug but really show that is it safe from a cardiovascular point of view that drives the development programs in size quite substantially, secondly we know that there are some (indiscernable)diabetes drugs out there meaning that if you should have society wanted to use your new medications you need to really clearly show why should society pay for your medication and what are the advantages and taking all this together it's boiling up to quite a substantial development program and that means large investment large financial exposure and that's why we have found a very good to partner with a peer pharma to really both share risks but of course share the rewards because if you come through would the opportunity ban the growth of number of diabetes it is a very interesting area for us. Key things when you go into these type of collaborations is of course that you start with the fundamentals and to me that is that you see and agree that you have the same vision for how you want to drive the diabetes area and based on that you then could say afford the two different products how will we now drive the project strategy for the different molecules when very evident but something that you really just think through very carefully that is how do we agree on how to make decisions because there will be loads of very important decisions, decisions about development program, costing and who designed it, how will you approach regulatory authorities, how will you negotiate the best labors, how will you prepare for argumentation of your reimbursement negotiation, how will you think about preparing commercialization of the products, how do you leverage on the strength in the different companies and to do that we put in place a very clear strategy with governance boarders first of course a joint steering committee with people from both companies and serving that joint steering committee we have joint committee for development and one for commercialization and then down to the project team we have project teams (indiscernable) in both company and together they are really a joint project team and coupling that with constantly driving we really want to see the success we want to see the success of both the company building on mutual trust and respect that is something that is really needed. Your question will of course then be but have you succeeded well I think that so far we have been extremely successful we managed to launch the first product Onglyza a DPP-4 antagonist in US it came on time and actually in Europe we actually took out 15 months of the anticipated launch time by leveraging on the two companies different skills, in addition to that we launched the Kombiglyze which was the first once a day in (indiscernable) combination which I think also is quite substantial and then for the second compound dapagliflozin we are now in phase III and in some countries under regulatory review so I think it has been working out very well but it is absolutely important to constantly on both sides ask yourself how can we maintain the good collaboration and the spirit to really want to skill it together.
Fintan Walton:
And in terms of I mean there is this classic situation which is ultimately the final decision has to be made and as you said these are very weighty decisions either expensive decisions that both sides are trying to make so how does it if you can't agree I am not sure you always agree but when you can't agree what's the option what's the process to make sure there is a final decision?
Gunnar Olsson:
Of course there is always the possibility of escalating things then it's a very clear (indiscernable) on how will decisions be taken in situations where there are different opinions so far I think that this has never been an issue and I think that builds on the fact that we have an agreed vision of where we want to take this and we are building about we are building around that vision and I think that most important decisions have been very straight forward.
Christoph Pittius's views: Risk sharing in Pharma industry
Fintan Walton:
I suppose Christoph from your perspective as a person who is responsible for these future collaborations obviously the experience of the BMS is a useful one to lean on I suppose or to learn from but is that the future I mean is has our has the pharmaceutical industry got to a stage now that one single company can no longer take products to market it needs to do more risk sharing it needs to share the costs and also share the rewards, is that the state of our industry right now?
Christoph Pittius:
I would say there are all kind of different collaborations I mean we certainly are very excited about doing such as we call them peer to peer collaborations because of the same basis from which we approaches from the shared vision and the like but there is a lot of opportunities for doing deals with other companies with biotech companies because innovation is everywhere and we want to find them wherever it is so we look to doing deals with smaller partners as well as with partners of equal size.
Future goals of AstraZeneca
Fintan Walton:
Right and Gunnar from your perspective you've been a veteran of research and development if I can call you that over many years, the relationship that you now have with Christoph and the way the culture has changed within AstraZeneca how does that make you feel about the future for a company like Astrazeneca, do you think you are in a much stronger more powerful position now than you would say ten years ago?
Gunnar Olsson:
I think that we are in a very good position with these changes and the reason I say is this that the way I see on our business that is that things have changed very dramatically over the last say four five years and there is that that there is less possibility of succeeding unless you have a very good differentiation on your product and that is different I mean in the past I think pharma industry very much leveraged on incremental innovation right now we are seeing that if we should succeed with new products we need to have a step change and then we need to be very realistic that if we should build the portfolio with projects that has the potential to deliver the right degree of differentiation then we need to look after projects of internally and externally and with the common goal we want to build the strongest portfolio of course both Christoph and myself we have the same objective and I think that we are contributing with different skills in a very effective way.
Christoph Pittius:
Fintan what makes me feel very good about the interaction with R & D is that it is really a stated goal of Astrazeneca and I can feel it day to day that partnering is the goal that everyone of us has not only the business development actually not only the researchers but the rest of the organization everyone has in their goals and from that results the fact that you don't find a "Not invented here syndrome" that people are happy to stop an internal program if the external program demonstratively better so that makes my job much easier because I don't have to fight against internal windmills.
Fintan Walton:
Indeed and Christoph and Gunnar thank you very much indeed for coming on the show.
Christoph Pittius:
Thank you.
Gunnar Olsson:
Thank you.
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).
Christoph Pittius
Vice President
At the time of this PTV interview, Christoph Pittius serves as VP Strategic Partnering & Business Development CVGI iMED at AstraZeneca AB. His past roles include Executive Director, Business Development and Licensing at Novartis Oncology,Vice President, Global Business Development at Jubilant Biosys and Executive Director, Global Discovery Alliances at Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc.Christoph Pittius had done his Biochemistry Major at University of Hannover, Ph.D. Thesis at Max-Planck-Institute of Psychiatry (now Max-Planck-Inst. of Neurobiology), Munich, Post-Doc at NIH (NIDDK), Bethesda,MD, USA.
Gunnar Olsson
VP
At the time of this PTV interview, Gunnar Olsson serves as VP & Head CVGI Global R&D of AstraZeneca AB.
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.
AstraZeneca AB
AstraZeneca AB manufactures and distributes pharmaceutical products. It also undertakes research and development activities. The company was formerly known as Astra AB and changed its name to AstraZeneca AB in April, 1999. The company was founded in 1913 and is based in Sodertalje, Sweden. AstraZeneca AB operates as a subsidiary of AstraZeneca plc.
AstraZeneca AB
AstraZeneca AB manufactures and distributes pharmaceutical products. It also undertakes research and development activities. The company was formerly known as Astra AB and changed its name to AstraZeneca AB in April, 1999. The company was founded in 1913 and is based in Sodertalje, Sweden. AstraZeneca AB operates as a subsidiary of AstraZeneca plc.