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By Mark Crawford

MarkCrawfordWhen companies work together to find common ground and share expertise and ideas through a safe platform for exchange, driven by a well-defined mission with clear objectives, they can’t help but succeed. In the pharmaceutical world, this kind of synergy results in new thinking, creative solutions, and quicker success in bringing new medicines to market. At first thought, this may seem impossible—pharmaceutical companies are fierce competitors in a global marketplace. But with fair, well-designed structures in place, and overarching themes and guidelines approved by all participants, these goals can be achieved.

There are plenty of advantages in being part of win/win collaborations—important scientific methods and results are shared, costs are reduced, risk is lessened, and the thrill of being part of a breakthrough medical solution is long-lasting. In collaborations, scientists can break out of their government, academic, or private-sector silos to share in-house knowledge that suddenly makes everything else work.

“Companies often work on the same targets, at the same time, thinking their ideas are unique and give them a competitive advantage,” comments William Chin, M.D., executive vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at Pharmaceutical Research Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). “It has been shown over time, however, that this generally is not the case. Much more can be gained, faster and more efficiently, if we share the knowledge we have and make best use of the wisdom of the crowd.”

This idea of “sharing” is starting to take hold, especially as the pharmaceutical industry looks for new ways to improve the efficiency of drug development and speed up the delivery of new, safer products. In response, pharmaceutical companies, universities, and regulatory agencies are starting to work together to share information, reduce costs, and save lives.

“Pharmaceutical and biotech companies—large and small, established and early stage—are forging strategic alliances, collaborative partnerships, and multi-company consortia,” says Kenneth Kaitin, director of the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development. “Early results indicate that sharing knowledge and leveraging resources help sponsors find new drugs to treat many of today’s most challenging and complex indications.”

Considering that the strategy for drug development hasn’t fundamentally changed for decades, Kaitin adds that perhaps the greatest gain from new partnership models will be “the development of industry best practices that enable companies to maximize their formidable R&D investments and ensure future commercial success.”

In the June issue of the AAPS Newsmagazine, I report on some collaboration models that show how pharmaceutical companies, universities, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations have stepped forward to work together on cutting-edge research for some of the world’s biggest medical challenges. If successful, these programs will be dynamic models for collaborations in the future, across a range of sectors. Read The New Face of Collaboration: Pharmaceutical Sectors Collaborate to Bring Efficiency to Drug Development and Safety, and then participate in the discussion point below.

If you have participated in a collaboration, what pros and cons did you experience?

Mark Crawford, M.S., is a full-time freelance writer in Madison, Wisconsin, who specializes in science, technology, and business. He is also the author of five books.