During his brief year-long tenure as CEO of Corange Ltd., Max Link provided the usually staid pharmaceutical sector with some pizzazz, putting together two of the biggest biotech deals before leaving in June. Now that he's on his own - he put in 22 years at Sandoz, where he was also known for aggressive dealmaking, before going to Corange - he's using his accumulated expertise to help out young biotech companies.

Link, who divides his time between New York, London and Zurich, discussed with BioCentury his views on corporate partnering and the changing U.S. and European market for pharmaceuticals.

On the U.S. vs. the World

The slump in the U.S. biotech sector - what it means and how to emerge from it - is at the top of everyone's agenda, now that health care reform has been eviscerated. But in the midst of the hand-wringing, it may help to step back and consider the larger context in which U.S. companies are operating. And on a global scale, according to Link, the picture of U.S. industry that emerges doesn't look as grim.

Despite the current problems in the biotech sector, Link emphasized that the U.S. is still ahead of both Europe and Japan. "If you take the biotechnology industry as a whole, the competitive advantage of the U.S. is very high," he said. "In Japan, the 1980s were called the decade of biotechnology and nothing happened. While I expect generics and drug delivery competition from Japan, I don't see it in biotech.

"Many people 10 years ago expected in the pharmaceutical industry the same development as in banking, with Japanese companies taking over as the largest companies. But that didn't happen. In fact, the struggle of Japanese companies for survival is more intense because Japanese price controls are very, very tight."