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The One Nucleus BioWednesday in London fell on 4th July 2012, Independence Day. Bearing in mind the topic of discussion, perhaps the 4th of July should also be known as "Transparency Day"?
Shaun Grady, VP SPBD, AstraZeneca was the main speaker providing background on the company and their aspirations.
He explained that their success has been through collaboration and that since around 2006 partnering is at the very core of what they do. This was around the time when they became aware that there was a lot of "exciting science outside AstraZeneca" which they could access. AstraZeneca, however, has taken collaboration to a whole new level with the launch of their Neuroscience Innovative Medicines Unit (iMed) which is a "purely virtual network of relationships" and the 40 people involved will work on projects all originating from outside AstraZeneca.
He also talked about "alliance management" which isn't just about project management but also managing the relationship, working and collaborating with the partner.
Shaun went on to explain the role of their Portfolio Investment Board, encouraging companies to "come and talk to us even before the decision to partner". It was clear, however, that one of the key challenges for any company approaching AstraZeneca in order to collaborate, is to stand out from the hundreds of approaches the company receives every day! He was happy to share a few handy tips:
AstraZeneca has also invested in China, Brazil, Mexico and Russia and they are actively looking at China and Russia for innovation.
Interestingly, Bristol-Myers Squibb and AstraZeneca are expanding their diabetes alliance through Bristol-Myers Squibb’s acquisition of Amylin Pharmaceuticals. With diabetes becoming an epidemic, this arrangement should be most beneficial to both companies and, most importantly, to diabetics themselves.
At the end of the session, Greer Deal, Director of Global Regulatory Services (GRS), followed up on Shaun's statement that they were looking for innovation in China and Russia. Specifically in relation to China, she asked if they were interested in Traditional Chinese Medicines (TCMs). The response was 'yes' but was quickly followed with "but how can you get IP for plants/herbals?" The truth is that they are exploring TCMs but with the aim of converting to a semi synthetic which can then be further developed - interesting!
The buzz word at the moment is "transparency" with major pharma companies and regulatory agencies mentioning the word whenever possible. Are we entering a new era, a "brave new world"? Time will tell.
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