With the closure of the major financing windows on both sides of the Atlantic, biotech CEOs presumably are going to try once again to substitute equity capital with big pharma dollars from partnering.

Regardless of the P&L arithmetic that prevents the pharma side from feeding all the hungry mouths, the continuing hustle for partners begs a larger strategic question: Are biotech companies pursuing partnering strategies that will enable them to achieve sustainability? Are the deals that are being negotiated really creating long-term value for the biotech companies? And how can they tell?

Since 1993, BioCentury has published more than 4,500 news items related to deal making. But most deal announcements provide virtually no information that can be used to draw conclusions about the biotech company's future value.

As noted by Rob Dow, CEO of Scotia Holdings (LSE:SOH, Stirling, U.K.), "announcing a deal is so far away from creating value that one should not be surprised if it does not generate significant upside immediately."

Thus the long-term value generated by biotech deals remains under wraps until measurable outcomes can be seen from a project, perhaps beginning with late-stage clinical data.

Nevertheless, deals can accomplish many things in the short-term, including helping a cash-strapped company survive to fight another day. A partner also can help a company figure out if its technology or scientific insight has any commercial utility.

But with the capital markets now unwilling to support purely exploratory science projects, perhaps the more important question for both companies and investors is how to measure whether a partnership is structured to build long-term sustainable value for the biotech side.

While it is possible to put together a sizeable list of plausible benchmarks for deals (see Benchmarks, A2), biotech executives interviewed for this article also revealed a number of themes that would underlie any analysis of value.

Partners can't repeal gravity

For starters, a deal cannot reduce the intrinsic risk of product failure. Indeed, the odds of successfully developing a drug product through a partnership logically must be less than the chance taken by a company that has the finances and infrastructure to do the job internally.