By Ludger Wess
Special to BioWorld Today
AMSTERDAM, the Netherlands ¿ Promoting profitable partnerships was the focus as more than 300 delegates from about 170 venture capital, pharmaceutical, biotechnology and investment companies attended the 7th International Life Sciences Conference that began here Monday.
The conference is the largest and perhaps most important yet as the European biotech industry continues its rapid growth and creation of value, organizers said. The conference was put together on behalf of the European Life Sciences Partnering Foundation.
¿Due to the biotech revolution, size is no longer critical for the discovery process,¿ Ulrike Kluge, vice president, corporate development, at Schwarz Pharma AG, of Monheim, Germany, told the conference. Schwarz Pharma is a mid-sized pharmaceutical company with affiliates around the world and a strong focus on cardiovascular diseases, neurology and urology.
Although the company achieved five FDA approvals recently, it does no research itself. ¿Besides global presence by acquisition, our growth is based on innovative products we bring to the market,¿ said Kluge, who is responsible for Schwarz¿s acquisition of new products and technologies.
Schwarz tries to add four to six products each year to its portfolio.
¿We target mid-sized products for in-licensing [that are] below the radar of big corporations,¿ Kluge said. ¿For a successful cooperation, a project has to meet unmet medical needs and has to have proof of concept and patent protection.¿ The company has 25 scientists with a business background screen about 300 project opportunities each year, mostly in the biotech area.
Another cooperation model was presented by Robert Mansfield, CEO of Vanguard Medica Group plc, in Guildford, U.K. ¿We identify and acquire rights to commercially and scientifically attractive early-stage compounds and develop them into products in collaborative agreements with other pharmaceutical companies and academic institutions,¿ he said.
Vanguard Medica manages all aspects of planning and development necessary to bring the compounds through to approval. Companies can hold the rights to the products and pay royalties on commercialization, or have the right to buy the product back after development. Founded in 1991, the company has a solid cash position and flowing revenues from its numerous alliances. ¿However, we are still looking for partners and interesting new compounds,¿ Mansfield said.
Werner Schiebler, director of new technologies licensing for Hoechst Marion Russell AG (HMR), of Frankfurt, Germany, added that big pharmaceutical companies have a strong demand for partnering, too.
¿Small molecules are the main focus of HMR still,¿ Schiebler said. ¿Besides, we need to update and expand our chemical libraries continuously, and we are looking for new partners providing compound libraries and novel ways to identify leads, generate hits and optimize compounds.¿
Both Schiebler and Kluge added that although they could readily assemble a network of different partners according to their needs, they would prefer one-stop shops with a fully integrated service.
A quick poll in the audience showed that the majority of delegates expected more mergers of biotech companies for the near future. n