Halle: If the biotech company has an attractive product, and if there is competition between pharma companies to get access to that compound, a pharma company will consider acquiring a company to secure that asset. For example, if a biotech company’s product is within our strategic focus, we might invest a lot of money upfront to acquire the company rather than enter into a standard licensing deal.
Colpman: I agree with the earlier comment that you put the product at the center of consideration and the deal comes after, whether it’s M&A or licensing. To raise its profile, a biotech company needs to publish good journal articles. It also must show that it has a good product and great data and then target as many places, people, and companies, as it can. You just need to get the information out there and make as much noise as possible.
Molsbergen: When putting together a portfolio, ensure that your IP is solid. Big pharmas are still licensing based on the target mechanism of action for that target: the IP frontier, meaning the freedom to operate and exclusivity, how big is the market prediction, the competitive landscape for the indications, and evidence of activity in vivo for the drug candidate.
When outlicensing products it’s essential for your drug’s ability to create value in the future around that portfolio. If it’s not tangible, if it’s not something that is recognizable by future partners, or something better than what they already have in development, then I would say that your chances for getting attention are going to be a lot less. This is evidenced by some drugs that are in Phase III and not partnered out, mostly because no one wants to assume the risk.
Yanni: We have a different point of view. We want to make ourselves as available as possible. And so, in that regard, we have developed a simple point of entry to the outside world and we’ve worked hard internally at Merck to make the review process as seamless as possible.
We don’t want the person to have to figure out how this works at Merck in order to get the opportunity reviewed by the right people. So as long as somebody gets that package to a member of our licensing team, we will get it to the right experts and have them review it.
The most important thing to us is the scientific data and the IP, as Martina said, because we have these packages reviewed by the experts in the field. So they’re looking at it from the standpoint of scientists. Of course, for later-stage opportunities, we also involve marketing folks. We want to make it as simple as possible and as quick as possible so we can get back to people with a yes or no answer or even “no for now but we’d like to see more data when it becomes available.