Second Opinion: The P in Pharma stands for Partnerships

2022-07-26 |  Shrinivas Anikhindi & Carol Cao

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Welcome back to Second Opinion. This month, we’re going to talk about strategic partnerships in healthcare.

When we think about partnerships, whether it’s at home or in the office, on the sports field or in a creative space, we think about shared value, of being more than the sum of its parts, of sustainability.

Partnerships in healthcare are no exception, and increasingly, pharma companies are recognising them as the next step in the evolution of how care is delivered to patients.

We’re going to focus on explaining the value that partnerships can provide to Life Sciences companies, as well as introducing a free diagnostic tool we’re hoping to pilot with our readers.

Finally, stick around to the end to hear about the companies that have got strategic partnerships right, and how this has transformed their organisations as a result.

As always, if you’d prefer to listen to our perspectives instead, you can find us on Spotify, Apple and Soundcloud


Strategic partnerships in healthcare sit at the juncture of profitability and sustainability. They offer a chance for Life Science companies to take a bigger step forward in how they deliver value to healthcare and patients, especially as the complexity of treatments and care delivery increase exponentially.

Key drivers for partnership-enabled change

With go-to-market business models rapidly evolving, we are welcoming an era of Life Sciences based on disruptive medicines, technologies, and services which require similarly disruptive value propositions. If you’d like to read more about this, we have covered the subjects at length here, here, and in our documentary on integrated healthcare.

The delivery of these value propositions hinges on an organisation’s ability to deliver sustainable value to shareholders, customers and patients, especially in key growth areas such as Oncology, Rare Diseases, Immunology, and Infectious Diseases.

Unlocking value through partnerships

Partnerships allow organisations to share the burden of delivering sustainable value to the healthcare system while increasing the quality of outcomes delivered within the system.

When we look at the aforementioned growth areas, there are so many complexities to be navigated by Life Sciences companies looking to succeed in the space. Clinical examples of this are the capabilities required to deliver CAR-T cell therapies and specialised medications for rare diseases. As we have seen in the last year, operational situations also arise, for example the complex co-operation required across manufacturing and supply chain for the delivery of successful vaccine programmes.

Partnerships are key to operating in an innovative and lean way. By working with a known set of needs with your customers and patients, you can reduce miscommunication in healthcare, and increase the speed at which solutions can be deployed to those who need them most.

Understanding your partnership maturity

The potential of strategic partnerships is enormous, but organisations taking their first step towards it don’t need to drown in the ocean. The most important thing to do is begin by understanding how mature your organisation is when it comes to the delivery and utilisation of strategic partnerships –especially compared with those around you.

To support that, our team at PEN are offering a diagnostic tool and a complimentary taster workshop to stimulate thought-provoking conversations with advocates. We’re bringing together individuals in Life Science organisations who want to lead the way in delivering next-generation health care models enabled by strategic partnership, and this is the very first step.

The diagnostic tool will be live for 4 weeks. All respondents will then receive a comprehensive analysis, including a competitor benchmark.

The business need to find innovative solutions to commercial arrangements and address unwarranted uncertainty in product/service uptake has never been higher. Is it time you invested your thinking into how Strategic Partnerships can meet that need?

If you’re interested, please CLICK HERE or speak to our Partnership Expert Su Jones.


Strategic partnerships have increased eightfold since 2012. Many pharma companies are finding that partnerships offer one of the best ways to strengthen their pipeline, improve technologies, scale up manufacturing, and provide that all-important competitive advantage.

Let’s take a look at some of the partnership trends that have shaken up the industry.

Companies need to partner to accelerate the development of new technologies

While strategic partnerships weren’t exactly on the radar in the past, their importance has definitely become well-known post-2020. As the pandemic raged on, efforts to quickly develop a safe vaccine resulted in two major strategic alliances – Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca-Oxford.

Both pharma companies utilised the cutting-edge technologies developed by biotech ventures, while the pharmaceutical giants themselves leveraged their infrastructure to speed up clinical trials and regulatory approval, as well as production and distribution.

This alliance illustrated the power of a meaningful partnership, while also being a remarkable achievement for science. Pfizer’s successful strategic partnership with BioNTech has continued to evolve; they have now announced the development of a new shingles vaccine using the same mRNA technology, with clinical trials beginning in late 2022.

Companies are investing more in discovery phase partnerships that focus on platform technology

Over the last few years, pharma companies have started to show their eagerness and interest to invest in innovation early on, rather than retrofit technologies. Around half of all strategic partnerships in 2020-21 occurred at the discovery stage, with many of these partnerships focusing on platform technology across different disease areas.

For example, of interest to many pharma companies are technologies that can identify drug candidates, be used in drug discovery and even underpin genomic medicine platforms. Bristol Myers Squibb has partnered with Schrödinger and will leverage the latter’s technology that aims to predict how a potential drug will affect a target, which can help to screen out candidates that may be less suited for specific clinical studies.

Oncology alliances still dominate, but interest is increasing in other disease areas

Oncology remained the most active segment for strategic partnerships in the biopharma industry in 2021, which accounts for around 40% of all deals. However, there has been a recent rise of interest in CNS diseases, rare diseases, and partnerships that involve multiple indications.

Some noteworthy non-oncology deals include Biogen and Sage Therapeutics’ partnership, which aims to develop and commercialise therapies in depression and movement disorders. Lilly and Evox’s partnership has also received praise; together they are leveraging Evox’s proprietary technology to develop drugs for neurological disorders. The former is proving successful in clinical trials with postpartum depression treatment.

Key takeaways

As the biopharma market continues to evolve, the focus on strategic partnerships is becoming much more commonplace. Partners provide significant risk mitigation and development expertise, and allow pharma companies to expand their pipelines while exploring multiple disease areas. With value proven for the world to see, companies are likely to continue this trend of investing in strategic partnerships in 2022 and beyond.

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