There's probably not a biotechnology company out there that doesn't want or need corporate partners. But without a doubt some companies come to the party better prepared to be partners than others.

Nobody knows this better than the pharmaceutical executives whose job it is to screen companies for interesting technologies and compounds. Not surprisingly, Number One on the list of what sparks their interest is technology. But every biotech company claims it has the best science in its field, and it takes more than wishful thinking to make those claims credible. There's a broad range of thinking on the pharma side about what's important, and biotech companies that want to do deals should make sure they know what their target audience deems critical.

Science, straight up

The first thing most pharma companies want to see is the science, and they want to see it without any hype. Whether written or oral, pharma companies want presentations to be sober and factual.

"I want an Ivory Soap presentation - 99 and 44/100 percent pure science," said Ron Pepin, director of external science and technology at Bristol-Myers Squibb. "At least half the companies don't follow that recommendation, even after I give it to them. CEOs will get up and give a 30 minute presentation about who their investors are. I'll get the heads of research into a meeting and the company will give me a presentation geared to investment bankers. Instead, they should be presenting the best data they can present - in vitro, in vivo. That's what we want to see."

Companies need to be able to present a sound scientific case, said Tony Weighous, acquisitions review manager at The Upjohn Co. "We want to see a strong presentation, and an ability to answer quesions without a lot of hand-waving. The more solid information the better."

"I'm very sensitive to obviously excessive hype," said Juergen Schrenk, vice president of technology management at Corange Ltd. "That's a superficial thing, but it can turn you off. For example, inflating market potential. Some companies do it shamelessly, even by an order of magnitude."

The worst thing companies can do, Weighous said, is to "just come and give a corporate overview and wave your arms a lot. If you've billed it as presenting your program, and you don't, that's bad. If you don't have anything to tell, don't ask us to put eight top-notch scientists in the room. If you want to give a general overview, just put me and another person in the room."