The Cross-Border Biotech Blog

Biotechnology, Health and Business in Canada, the United States and Worldwide

Some Partnering Basics: Part 16 of Valuation and Other Biotech Mysteries

[Ed. This is the sixteenth part in Wayne's series. You can access the whole thing by clicking here. Please leave comments or questions on the blog and Wayne will address them in future posts in this series.]

If partnering is basically the process of selling an asset, the first step is to let people know more about the asset which is for sale. Three initial questions to be answered are:

  • What companies do you talk to;
  • Who do you talk to at these companies; and
  • What do you tell them?

The answer to the first question is easy – you talk to all companies which may have an interest in commercializing your asset. The list of companies should be easy to prepare by looking at information sources already discussed in this blog series, including:

  • Annual reports and pipeline reviews by pharma and biotech companies;
  • Searching www.clinicaltrials.gov for all companies running clinical trials in the therapeutic fields targeted by your asset; and
  • Subscription newsletters and databases.

The people who need to be targeted are those who are both directly and indirectly involved in the partnering process. Since you can never predict which initial contact will lead to the deal, you have to target all potential contacts at all potential partners.

The obvious targets are the business development professionals at the target companies. The decision makers have screening systems and groups to deal with the thousands of products and tens of thousands of attempted contacts each year.

  • Should you use the company screening systems? The answer is probably yes, although there is the danger of getting a ‘no interest’ tag attached to your asset after a cursory review.
  • Should you go to partnering conferences? There is probably one every week except during the summer months. There are the premier conferences attended by most companies and many senior BD professionals, including BIO and BIO-Europe. There are also many smaller, regional and specialty events. Be selective in choosing which ones you attend.
  • Should you hire an outside consultant? This partially depends on the asset – a small molecule in a hot field gets noticed by everybody whereas something a little outside the box may need some extra help getting through the screening processes. Other factors include internal BD expertise and BD budgets.

Even though pharma is reducing and rationalizing its scientific infrastructure, scientists are still a target for introduction of your asset into the partnering process. Scientists talk to each other, so you need to have scientists seeing information and hopefully talking about your asset. The information can be published in peer-reviewed journals or presented at conferences. This route may be more important for preclinical assets but at some point in every partnering process, an internal or external scientist is going to have to bless your asset.

There are a number of vehicles which you can use to inform people about your asset and you need to use all of them. Whether you do internet searches yourself or use search services, this is where you get basic information – potential partners are no different. So you have to ensure that your asset shows up on internet searches by target, disease, product class, etc. Potential partners can also be reached indirectly through sector or disease studies written and sold by third parties, who probably start creating their product lists through internet searches.

Assuming that you have obtained a first meeting with a BD professional at a partnering conference, what information should you use, how do you present it and what can you reasonably expect to accomplish?

  • Most meeting slots are 30 minutes, minus the time needed to walk between meetings. Manage your meeting schedule, make sure you are on time and make sure you finish on time.
  • If you are meeting one person, there should not be five from your company.
  • Customize the presentation to suit the background of the person and their company.
  • All information used should be non-confidential – the company across the table from you is a competitor until they are your partner.
  • The information can be transmitted using three basic tools – a short PowerPoint presentation, a two-page summary and a USB with supporting information (well organized).
  • A first meeting at a partnering conference can only be expected to result in:
    • A favourable personal perception of you and your company;
    • The desire to learn more about your asset; and
    • The willingness to meet again when there is additional information.

Potential buyers now know that you have an asset for sale. The next steps are to convince somebody to buy the asset and determine the selling price.

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