The sharp rise in partnerships between big pharma and small biotech companies has highlighted a scramble for assets in the cell and gene therapy industries. As excitement around the sector grows and competition intensifies, James Miskin of Oxford BioMedica believes the ability to make partnerships is critical:
“My belief is that a strong, two-way, reinforcing, supporting partnership is a very good business model. It allows the bigger company to learn and it allows the smaller company to continue to invest, and to expand in what they already do well.”
Small biotechs are often better at drug discovery, the part of the value chain where new ideas and concepts are critical. However, as these ideas move down the value chain, big pharma often has the advantage. Due to their years of experience, size and bigger budgets, they are often better equipped to move these ideas through clinical trials and through the commercialization process.
James Miskin explains: “I think with a big company, what they have, and what no small companies will ever have, is the bandwidth — in regulatory, in clinical and in business as well. So what they can give us is a lot of experience and that bandwidth can allow you to do things more rapidly.”
Another advantage, he notes, is the quality expectations of big pharmas. “We can learn, as a small company, how to satisfy the high standards that the bigger companies would expect to see.”
James points to Oxford BioMedica’s partnership with Novartis, working on their CAR T programmes, as an example of a good partnership. “We share information and I think it’s definitely a mutually beneficial relationship. On the technical side: our expertise on the vector side is clearly superior, but they’re very willing to learn and absorb. On the regulatory side, they have a much more significant operation, the bandwidth is wider. They can cope with opening multiple sites, in multiple jurisdictions and working with all the health authorities around the world at the same time, which a smaller organization like us would find difficult.’
As in any relationship, respect is key. James adds: “I think the most important thing for us is that the partner needs to recognize what we do well. And be willing to treat it as a valuable entity”.
James Miskin was speaking at the Cell Therapy Manufacturing & Gene Therapy Congress in Brussels.