July 10, 2012

Pharma deals 2012

Last month Pharmaceutical Executive published a summary based on its annual panel of heavy hitters in business development on best practices in licensing and M&A for the year ahead. The discussion was built around the latest findings from Cambell Alliance's 2012 Survey of Dealmaker Intentions. The survey had many interesting conclusions, and I thought that I would summarize a few of their thoughts here - I recommend reading the full article.

Most attractive in-licensing therapy areas

In-licensors expects most deals to be made in oncology, cardiovascular, CNS, metabolic and respiratory drugs. Oncology has a unique characteristic in that interest is high at all levels of the development cycle, including early stages. In fact, the interest in doing deals in pre-clinical, Phase I and II was found to be higher than for those in Phase III. All other major therapeutic segments (except immunology) showed a preference for candidates in phase III. An interesting side note from David Thomas (BIO) was that oncology, CV and CNS have the lowest success rates (less than one in 10 compounds make it from phase I to commercialization). 

Trends within individualized treatments

FDA has approved 3 drugs in the last 12 months whose mechanisms are intended for a specialized target sub-population. Because the ability now exists (in some disease areas) to target and individualize therapies for patients, the per patient costs can be higher but it is also more likely the payers will support price premiums for some guarantee of better performance among a defined patient group. J&J did a deal with the UK NICE, to obtain payer buy in, in which it guaranteed that if Velcade did not work in a patient, it'd pay back the NHS


About asset valuation
A decade ago the approach in valuing a target incorporated a lot of material that frankly is irrelevant, such as the number of patents on file, the number of employed scientists, or the square footage of lab space. R&D is not a numbers game. Pfizer consistently spent the most money on R&D and employed the most scientists, yet the return from its effort was poor. Nowadays companies are valued more on the basis of their strong cash flow, and little credit is given for development stage assets. The early 1990s saw enormous valuations for "ideas" with early stage IPOs, but with investors unable to sort through the good from the bad and value assets appropriately. Many companies subsequently failed.

Deal-making with academia
Universities have been empowered and push very hard on the IP front, taking a major interest in leveraging intellectual capital to generate profit. The IP and know-how from academia is important in drug development but often represents a small piece of a very complicated value equation, currently there seems to be little understanding that their contribution may only be a small part of the very long and expensive process to bring products to commercialization. Data packages from academia are rarely done to industry standards. Negotiations have on the other hand started to change. For a long time, academic partners insisted on terms that were entirely one-sided: take all the patent rights, refuse exclusivity in partnering, and reimburse them for 75 percent of the overhead costs. Today, the approach is more similar to those made with small biotech partners: with upfront payments plus royalties linked to milestones. Many TTOs now hire people with background in venture, biotech or Big Pharma - this could be a sign of an improving relationship.




Tobias Thornblad

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