Challenging Tradition: Integrated Development and Commercialization

By Dylan Kissane

In her introductory remarks to this panel, Ashely Cox, Senior Principal at Eversana, described the traditional approach to drug development and commercialization with a single word: siloed. R&D teams, drug delivery and technology teams, commercialization teams, and product managers work separately towards a common goal, and physicians, clinicians, and patient groups are similarly separated. However, this can change and is changing with more integrated approaches starting to demonstrate better outcomes for patients and profitability. From development to dosage, integration is proving attractive, but how does it work in practice?

Kerem Yücel Erden, VP and Head of Collaborate2Cure Hub EMEA at Bayer, argued that some integration at a large pharma company is already SOP. After all, when a deal or a major acquisition is underway, workgroups representing many parts of the company come together to work on due diligence, and that’s a type of integration. Deeper integration, though, must go beyond the company. Erden believes external actors like payers, hospitals, startups, and academic institutions must also be integrated into the development and commercialization process.

Roberto Zanchi, Head of Business Development and Commercialization at the Quadram Institute of Bioscience, argued that integration efforts must begin with the patient journey. By adopting the patient’s perspective and considering their needs first, integration strategies can accelerate with a focus on outcomes instead of internal processes.

Mireia Gomez Angelats, CBO at Topas Therapeutics, echoed Erden and Zanchi. “We talk about silos and, yes, that is the nature of big pharma,” she said, “but there is a better way to operate.” She cited her experience working on biopharma M&A deals where 30-100 people from different departments worked together for three weeks to three months to complete the transaction. “This is an integrated team,” she said, and she appreciates the agility and speed at which teams get their deals done.

All panelists believed the recent COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the trend toward vertical integration in biopharma. Erden revealed that one study he reviewed concluded that the industry had taken a five-year leap forward in digital technology in just 12 months. Digital tools broke open silos. Zanchi agreed, noting there were some digital trends pre-pandemic, but “the pandemic was a massive inflection point” that dramatically changed the market.

The three panelists urged pharma companies to launch their integration efforts as early as possible. Zanchi stresses that his researchers engage with clinicians, patients, and regulators early and regularly. Erden agreed that the best time to start an integrated approach is “as soon as possible,” especially early in a partnership or after an acquisition.

For Angelats, though, both parties must consider integration efforts well before signing any deal. She explained that small biotechs and startups designing their first studies should consider how large pharma partners will scrutinize those studies. In an industry where every month counts and speed is always crucial, designing studies and trials that align with large pharma expectations means they won’t have to be repeated. This saves time and money and adds tremendous value to a collaboration.