Partnerships in the biotech industry are integral to bringing novel therapeutics to patients.
Strategic partnerships are integral to biotechnology and therapeutic development. These collaborative alliances between larger firms and dynamic biotech companies create fertile ground for innovation. Flagship Pioneering and its ecosystem of companies take part in this culture of collaboration, partnering with external entities that are aligned with their vision.
At the 40th Annual J.P. Morgan Health Care Conference, Flagship Pioneering hosted a panel dubbed “Pioneering Partnerships: Going Farther and Faster in Pursuit of Patient Impact,” moderated by Christine Heenan, Flagship Pioneering’s Chief Communications Officer and Executive Partner. Panelists from the Flagship ecosystem joined external partners to highlight how emerging collaborations are shaping the future of the biotech industry.
Nestlé Health Science
The partnership between Flagship and Nestlé Health Science has been thriving since 2015. Nestlé Health Sciences is an established leader in medical nutrition, consumer healthcare, and pharma with an array of products on the market. Ignacio Martinez, Flagship General Partner, describes the synergy between the two entities: “We develop and create bioplatform companies, and they have the machinery to take them to market.”
The dynamic works in more than just the nuts and bolts. Flagship has a culture built around asking big what-if questions to develop breakthrough innovations. Greg Behar, CEO, Nestlé Health Science, describes this mindset as energizing and inspiring. “I have to say every time our team engages with the Flagship team you get a boost,” he says. “We can shift our culture and drive that innovation mindset further into the company.”
All partnerships hope to establish a supportive environment that makes possible the previously impossible. These partners are working to develop novel nutritional therapies for brain, gastrointestinal, and metabolic health. Behar says a microbiome platform technology would not have been realized without “Flagship Pioneering and their science capabilities and ways of executing.” He says, “It’s not only about just having great ideas and great science. You have to be able to deliver and there are a lot of holes and challenges on the path to success.”
Overcoming those challenges requires clear alignment and communication on objectives and a stable foundation. Behar says instability in a team can cause partnerships to fail from day one. Stability in this long-term partnership, he says, has been key to giving people the time necessary to execute and deliver on shared goals.
A new partnership between Amgen and Flagship-founded Generate Biomedicines is harnessing the best of both when it comes to the wet and dry lab. Generate’s artificial intelligence (AI) platform can develop protein-based therapies across multiple therapeutic modalities at high speeds and success rates. The extraordinarily scalable platform can produce a lot more benefit than traditional empirical techniques, says Mike Nally, Flagship CEO-Partner and CEO of Generate Biomedicines.
This advantage is an attractive capability for Amgen, which boasts robust protein engineering capabilities with a product portfolio that ranges from small molecules and peptides to highly engineered fusion proteins and bispecific antibodies. “Generate has a differentiated AI capability that we thought married very nicely with Amgen’s long-standing history in biology,” explains Rachna Khosla, SVP, Business Development at Amgen.
While AI may be driving discovery, at the heart of the partnership is people. “If you don't set the tone from the very beginning on what you're really looking to accomplish together, it does not matter how ironclad your contract is. You really need to be able to have the people come together,” says Khosla.
Those people have coalesced around a shared vision and focus on an overarching goal of serving patients. The partners want to understand the inner working of how DNA codes for protein function and use that knowledge to develop new medicines for the clinic. “We [are] doing this to improve patient care … and that was really a fuel and I think it's a Northstar for our partnership as we go forward,” says Nally.
Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
Flagship’s Pioneering Medicines recently announced a new partnership with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to develop new therapies for cystic fibrosis (CF). The foundation has an established venture philanthropy model that provides early-stage funding to enable breakthrough treatment development.
Of the approximately 70,000 people with CF around the world, 10% have a genetic basis for the disease that does not respond to modulator therapies. The path to a cure involves genetic technologies, says Michael Boyle, MD, President and CEO of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. “We knew this was going to need innovative approaches, and who’s more innovative than Flagship,” he says.
Paul Biondi, Flagship Executive Partner and President of Pioneering Medicines, explains the strength of Pioneering Medicines is its ability to bring multiple technologies from across Flagship to serve this common goal. This capability is an exciting opportunity and potentially critical to meeting the needs of a genetic CF therapy. “We're going to end up having to combine some technologies … and sometimes those are technologies that are expertise from different companies,” says Boyle.
This unique strategy of leveraging technologies from across the Flagship ecosystem is in pursuit of this partnership’s ultimate goal. They are hoping to not only develop a CF therapy that is agnostic to the type of genetic mutation, but also a curative technology that could serve all CF patients.
Watch the full conversation to learn more about partnerships pursuing novel therapeutic development.
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