Kolkata, India - 11 May, 2010 - Comments of Rod MacKenzie, senior VP and head of worldwide research, Pfizer PharmaTherapeutics at U.S.-India Chamber of Commerce biopharma and healthcare summit.
He highlighted a series of partnerships Pfizer has signed in Asia with academic institutions and contract research organizations and manufacturers, noting that most partnerships start small and expand over time as trust is built between the partners.
In one example, Pfizer in January expanded a partnership with Kolkata, India-based TCG Lifesciences: TCG will develop a portfolio of undisclosed molecules in several discovery target programs up to the nomination of preclinical candidates. Pfizer will own the compounds and provide research funding, and TCG is eligible for undisclosed research milestones (PharmAsia News, Jan. 6, 2010). The TCG relationship developed over several years, with the Indian company initially providing discovery chemistry work under a master services agreement, which Pfizer expanded in February 2009 to include integrated research services. (Read complete story below)
Pre-Competitive Collaboration Would Help Pharmaceutical Productivity Crisis – If Lawyers Could Get Out Of The Way
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Greater R&D collaboration was the theme of the day at the star-studded U.S.-India Chamber of Commerce biopharma and healthcare summit. But industry leaders ranging from Pfizer’s Martin Mackay to Merck’s Merv Turner to Sanofi-Aventis’ Marc Cluzel agreed that building trust among big pharmaceutical companies, and with other stakeholders including academics and India service providers, is key to harnessing wider networks, improving pipeline attrition and bringing effective drugs to market faster and cheaper. The format of the May 6 summit itself was perhaps the biggest indication that building trust and partnering – even with competitors - is now taken seriously in an industry known for fiercely defending its intellectual property rights. Instead of keynote speakers rushing in for a presentation and rushing out again, leaders from the world of biopharma R&D, venture capital and India contract services remained at assigned tables in a hotel ballroom in a setting reminiscent more of an evening banquet than an all-day biologics conference. They listened to panels and keynotes, and engaged in a back-and-forth dialogue, often at the prodding of summit MC, and president of Pfizer Pharma Therapeutics R&D, Martin Mackay, who flashed a smile as he threatened to call on participants directly if they didn’t request a microphone on their own.
Signs Of Progress
It is still early in the game, but a new world of collaboration is emerging, and Mackay highlighted two partnerships he believes are a sign of things to come. In one, Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline have teamed up on a wholly owned subsidiary, ViiV Healthcare, focusing on HIV and AIDS, with each company contributing products and pipeline candidates (‘The Pink Sheet’ DAILY, Nov. 3, 2009). The move was widely seen as an effort to beef up the HIV focus of the two companies to compete with market leader Gilead Sciences. But Mackay also mentioned another benefit, one he thinks dovetails with the trust and partnership theme of the summit. Although Pfizer controls only two seats on ViiV’s board, compared to seven for GSK, one seat is occupied by Mackay, who noted that board meetings are held on GSK’s campus, facilitating regular dialogue between Pfizer and GSK scientists.
“This is the way we should have been working for years,” Mackay told scientists and executives attending the summit, hinting that additional collaboration between Pfizer and GSK could be in the offing. “And maybe if we had been, we wouldn’t be in this productivity issue we have now.”
In another example, Mackay mentioned a pre-competitive collaboration among Pfizer, Lilly and Merck to launch the Asia Cancer Research Center, which aims to collect and share pharmacogenomic data on Asia cancers, focusing on biomarkers for lung and gastric cancers (PharmAsia News, Feb. 24, 2010). Like with the GSK example, Mackay made the point that he had met recently with scientists at Lilly’s Singapore Center for Drug Development, which under the partnership will manage more than 2,000 tissue samples in an open-source platform.
“This is one of the biggest changes in our industry, this willingness to work together in the pre-competitive space,” Mackay said. “Now the cynics could say this is purely out of desperation. And there is probably an element of that, because when we didn’t need to collaborate, we didn’t do it so much.”
But according to Mackay, the reasons for collaboration are not as important as what the joint endeavors mean for drug discovery. “These are really first-class collaborations,” he said. “I’m absolutely convinced this is the way we will dig our way out of the productivity challenges that we face.”