An interview with Richard Brudnick, Senior VP, Corporate Development, Biogen
De-risking has evolved from literature searches to the cultivation of many wide-ranging relationships throughout the life sciences strata, according to Richard Brudnick, Senior VP, Corporate Development at Biogen. In a recent interview, Brudnick outlined key strategies to accessing innovation and “de-risking” risk through collaboration.
The first key strategy is to leverage regional biotech clusters. Biotech clusters provide the critical mass necessary to find not just a good alliance, but the right alliance at the right time. “A cluster can be a community of like-minded people, as well as geographic,” said Brudnick. The Boston area is both. This September BioPharm America™ in Boston will provide the means to leverage this important biotech hub for just such alliances. The local collection of intellectual capital is one of the reasons Biogen moved its headquarters to Cambridge in 1982, only four years after it was founded in Geneva, Switzerland.
The second strategy is to communicate early with young companies. Biogen likes to get to know companies early in their—or their project’s —development. “We like to have conversations and share perspectives on the type of experiments that derive more useful data,” Brudnick said. “Young companies are trying to prove enough of a point to gain funding and take their work to the next step, so knowing what to prove and how to prove it is important. It’s disappointing for all when a young company comes to us with interesting data that, if it had been done differently, would be more actionable.”
A third strategy is obtain more capital, earlier on. “Great teams are able to obtain more capital, and earlier. That’s changed the nature of the conversation with young companies, regarding their hopes and expectations of partnerships,” Brudnick said. “More sophisticated companies are taking advantage of the IPO window and are being more thoughtful about potential partnerships.” These companies are looking beyond money to closely consider whether an alliance also brings the necessary capabilities to advance their scientific and clinical program.
The improved financial environment hasn’t changed Biogen’s approach to risk or investment, according to Brudnick. “We’ve never had a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, any partnership must work for both sides.”
A final strategy is to carefully consider corporate culture. “The cultural fit matters,” said Brudnick. “Any R&D program will face unexpected opportunities and challenges. Leveraging opportunities and finding solutions depends not only on the quality of the work undertaken, but on the team’s ability to work together and transcend different viewpoints. At the end of the day, partnerships are driven by a meeting of minds…not just by finances, terms and responsibilities, but by the desire to work together towards a common purpose. That’s sometimes overlooked in the headlines.”
In the current climate of innovation renaissance, Brudnick said that regarding strategic partnerships, “the past is prologue. No one has a monopoly on innovation.” But, advancing innovation requires significant capital, symbiotic relationships among a multitude of players, and utilization of key strategies to reduce risk while encouraging great innovation.
These strategies directly align with the activity at BioPharm America that continues to drive life science partnerships. Relationships, capital, culture and risk are key themes at BioPharm America to take place in Boston September 15–17. Put the life science ecosystem to work for you.
Written by Erin Righetti, EBD Group