Experts discuss partnerships between Pharma and Biotech

Antwerp (24.11.2015) – The 9th European Business Development Conference for pharma and biotech took place 23 and 24 November in Antwerp, Belgium, and was organized by the German Biotechnology Organisation BIO Deutschland in cooperation with the Flemish life science network organization FlandersBIO and Flanders Investment and Trade. Despite the terror warning in the Greater Brussels area more than 80 business developers and other decision makers from the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry attended the conference and discussed current topics in the realm of pharma and biotech and partnering opportunities. Christoph Pittius, Vice President Head of Transactions, Business Development of AstraZeneca, in his opening keynote lecture shared his experience about efficient deal making and advised biotech like pharma to treat each other with respect and commitment in order to succeed. Knut Sturmhoefel, Head BD&L Ophthalmology & Respiratory, Novartis Pharma, presented in his keynote the changing reality of partnering with Big Pharma and said that the deal environment is still active, but deals will be more selective and predicted fewer „quick“ exits and more risk sharing for biotechs.

New therapies for autoimmune disorders were the focus of the first session. Representatives of Ablynx, Galapagos, Janssen, Pfizer and UCB presented their companies’ current research pipelines such as janus kinases and nanobodies. Emphasis was also put on the importance of early intervention and the emerging role the microbiome could play when treating autoimmune diseases.  The speakers also shed light on their varied partnering strategies.

In the panel discussion “The look beyond VC financing in Europe” experts of Flanders Investment and Trade, J&J Innovation Center, KBC, Merck Serono Venture Funds and V-Bio Ventures discussed possible alternative financing strategies for drug development. They agreed that crowdfunding would likely not be suitable for drug development. A large fund with tickets bigger than 100 Mio. Euro for a select number of companies was considered necessary. One recommendation of the experts was to look outside the classical pathways e. g. for in-kind collaborations. In regards of the financing problems of the German biotech industry the Belgian experts acknowledged that Germany has a vital biotech sector but lacks a sufficient ecosystem with appropriate governmental support.

The topic “oncology - companion diagnostics and other market drivers” was the focus of another session.  Alacris Theranostics presented the systems biology modelling platform ModCell which can create a virtual patient model based on genome and transcriptome data. Targos Molecular Pathology demonstrated a variety of diagnostic tools and their power to stratify oncology patient groups for clinical trials. Pathology is still the key to set up successful companion diagnostics, so the take home message of this presentation.

The conference was supported by FlandersBio and Flanders Investment and Trade. Merck supported the event as gold sponsor, Bayer, Heraeus, Janssen and Sanofi as silver sponsors.

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