#PhRMA12 Panel 4 Recap: New Models for Partnership, New Models for Innovation

#PhRMA12 Panel 4 Recap: New Models for Partnership, New Models for Innovation

04.12.12 | By Kate Connors

Continuing the theme of partnership that has permeated the discussion today, Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development Director Kenneth Kaitin announced a new study detailing the growth of industry/academia partnerships during today's final panel on the innovation ecosystem (read the study here, and our statement on it here).

He called it "an evolution that we're seeing in the industry," highlighting it as an opportunity for close, multidisciplinary collaboration among top experts.

And although the study focuses on industry/academia partnerships as an example of the ecosystem as a whole, he explained that we're even seeing a change that extends to creation of so-called "innovation networks that are focused on disease areas, where multiple pharma companies might get involved, and which also attracts the patient groups, smaller organizations, and also some of the academic centers that are involved in these research areas."

Pfizer Managing Director Torben Straight Nissen explained how his company uses a similar system: "What we're trying to do is to create this ecosystem where we bring in the patient foundations to work with our academic partners and with our internal product teams. It helps drive the research forward."

Margaret Anderson, executive director of FasterCures/The Center for Accelerating Medical Solutions, mentioned other parties that are important members of the ecosystem, for example calling the National Institutes of Health "the driver of all basic research" - the challenging research that Kaitin called ripe for failure, pointing out that early collaboration with companies can help improve trial design, avoiding failure.

Anderson also emphasized the role that patient groups can play, not just in terms of improving public awareness of disease, but also regulator awareness of disease - a challenge, as discussed early in the rare disease panel.

Calling it "passion capital," she explained: "The FDA can't know everything there is to know about every disease, so we can create mechanisms for these groups to parlay their knowledge. They can explain to FDA if they're a patient and this drug may provide a certain improvement. It may change the paradigm a little bit."

Coming from a different viewpoint, Alexis Borisy, partner with Third Rock Ventures, discussed how venture capital investors can even play a productive role in the ecosystem: "We try to find areas where the science is approaching a stage where it is ready for a focused, intensive investment. And I don't mean investment in terms of only dollars, but in getting all of the best players together in an area of critical mass. In other words, we look for a breakthrough moment that is occurring and try to assemble the best possible team that we can at that moment to make it really happen."

He also dismissed the suggestion of conflicts of interest among these brilliant researchers: "conflicts of interest are also known as expertise."

A common thread, which all panelists agreed upon, is the idea that there is significant benefit when the best and the brightest work together toward one goal - "to turn basic research into something that helps people," as Kaitin said.

Follow Kate on Twitter @KateAtPhRMA.

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