4:29 PM
May 03, 2019
 |  BioCentury  |  Product Development

Independents’ day: after their first solo launch, biotechs look to new partnering strategies

How the next wave of independent companies are adapting for long term growth

Having taken their first products to market alone, the new class of independent biotechs face decisions for what to keep and what to change as they seek to build sustainable value as end-to-end companies. One model is to refine their BD strategy, but double down on their approach to physician and patient engagement.

An April analysis by BioCentury found a growing cohort of biotechs is breaking free of the traditional dependence on pharmas to get products over the finish line and onto the market.

The last five years saw a steady rise in the number of biotechs launching their own first commercial products in the U.S., with 73 companies joining the crowd since 2014. Moreover, these companies are making up a larger proportion of FDA approvals, accounting for 27% of the drug launches in 2018 (see “Rise of the Independents: Biotechs Go to Market”).

Among these are biotechs such as Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Agios Pharmaceuticals Inc., which are bringing first-in-class treatments to patients having developed them in-house. Sage Therapeutics Inc. will join the ranks this year as it prepares to launch the first treatment for postpartum depression, Zulresso brexanolone, which was approved by FDA in March.

However, the strategy that got them to this point isn’t necessarily what will allow them to do this over and over for the rest of the pipeline.

“We’ve become less of a seller now and more of a buyer.”

Andrew Hirsch, Agios

Adding commercial teams is a given, but Alnylam and Agios say the key for them is to evolve their BD strategy. On the other hand, the physician and patient support methods that enabled their maiden launches will be a cornerstone for repeat success.

The biggest change is a shift from allowing partners to monopolize commercial responsibilities to finding deals that give the biotechs greater commercial control.

That will likely mean a refocus from courting large biopharmas, which are generally interested in global rights, to finding peer companies, which may be more willing to agree on an even split of commercial and development responsibilities.

But both Alnylam and Agios said deals with the big players will always remain in the picture, in particular for early development or regional commercial deals.

Shifting for value

Alnylam and Agios built their pipelines by relying on revenue from early collaborations.

Alnylam’s was generated in...

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