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Q&A with Amanda Kay and Stephen Berenson on Partnering for Growth

Listen to Amanda Kay, Flagship Senior Partner and Chief Business Development Officer, and Stephen Berenson, Flagship Managing Partner, explain the importance of partnerships to Flagship and its ecosystem.

Liz Pavone Hi, I'm Liz Pavone, manager of content and science communications at Flagship. I'll be talking with Flagship Managing Partner Stephen Berenson and Amanda Kay, who has recently assumed a role at Flagship as chief business development officer. Welcome, Amanda. Welcome, Stephen. Stephen, maybe you can take this first question. What is the role of Chief Business Development Officer and how does it benefit Flagship and our ecosystem companies?

Stephen Berenson: Thanks very much for the question. In a nutshell, it's to help our companies forge strong, valuable partnerships with pharma, right? So, if you look at the history of Flagship, of course, our 23 years, those companies that formed in their early stages, vital partnerships with pharma on average, went on to do very well, right. Those that didn't, oftentimes they struggle. Partnerships are one of the foundational value drivers of any biotech company, and we want to harness that at scale at Flagship.

Liz Pavone: So, Amanda, this next one's for you. how will you be working with our company origination teams and CEO partners to drive value at our companies?

Amanda Kay: For those companies without a business development team, mainly the new Cos. I or someone on my team will be able to serve as CBO or Head of Business Development. Over time, as companies become growth cos, we can help them really recruit to fill that role, as well as provide a guiding hand as they execute their strategy. Now, what that looks like is that as companies develop their corporate growth strategy, we can be there to help them think through the business development strategy and how that fits in. There's a lot of potential baked into all of our platforms and a lot of opportunities for them to go forward in, and also a lot of interest from the external environment. So, a big question can be, what do we partner now versus later? What type of partnership do we want? What do we want from the partnership? And so that's something we can help construct. We can then design the business development campaign and help our companies plug into the external biopharma environment, really based on knowing who the key decision makers are across R&D, business development and corporate functions, and really give the teams the direction as to how to take those first steps towards securing the deal. But ultimately, we do want to support a deal close and really enable our company's growth. So this will always be with company team in mind, who will be living with that partnership over time. And so it's my role to really make sure we have the best that Flagship has to offer in terms of constructing a deal team that will get them to sign.

Liz Pavone: Amanda, maybe you can take this question first. Why are partnerships so critical to Flagship and biotech more broadly?

Amanda Kay: Partnerships are exciting because for a small company, they can really accelerate the time to taking on and executing innovative projects. When companies start, there's so much opportunity, and typically, they'll prioritize those programs that are a bit more feasible. for a smaller company to run with, certain biologies, targets, or diseases may be quite complex, and those ideas are really parked for a moment in time. So partnerships can help companies take on those types of projects sooner rather than later. Moreover, a biopharma company will come with clinical or commercial experience that can help give companies line of sight towards the clinic. And oftentimes even sharing preclinical capabilities is a way for the company to grow its own functions early on. This is also exciting because in some way, the pharma is helping the company de-risk taking on this opportunity. So while getting validation through a partnership or additional funding is exciting, what's really the most exciting is being aligned on the science that you're doing. And that's really what drives great teamwork over time.

Liz Pavone: Stephen, do you have anything to add?

Stephen Berenson: What Amanda said is great. I often think you can summarize this as the three C's: capability, credibility, and capital. And Amanda hit on the first of those two. For example, I think if you were to speak to Mike Nally about how the partnership that Generate has with Amgen has helped generate become a greater, better company, that would be a terrific example of a partner bringing capability. And then the third dimension is capital, particularly at a time when capital is tight. Knowing that you can get this incremental source of capital from pharma adds to a company's war chest the company's ability to prosecute its overall plans.

Liz Pavone: Amanda, what is the relationship between this business development function and Pioneering Medicines' partnership work. For those unfamiliar, Pioneering Medicines is an initiative focused on developing life-changing medicines for patients using Flagship bioplatforms and technologies.

Amanda Kay: Companies can pursue a partnership through the traditional business development route, but at Flagship, they can also pursue a partnership through the Pioneering Medicine business unit. For example, the relationship we just signed on with Pfizer is all about Pfizer bringing to us their profiles for the highest unmet needs that they think about and then us taking a look across our companies to see which technologies and platforms may be brought to bear. This is pretty exciting because we'll be tapped into exactly what Pfizer is thinking about in terms of growing their portfolio over time. This is also exciting because this means a lot of our companies will really be accelerated in terms of taking on diseases or indications that are a broader scope or complexity than a small company can typically afford to take on its own. So this relationship is going to accelerate innovation, give us line of sight to the clinic, and help us share risk on some of these more complex or challenging diseases. Overall, though, these types of opportunities are really not the immediate focus of small companies, especially when they're starting up. So being able to take on a project in one of these disease states with Pfizer really grows the pie for our companies and broadens the application of the platform over the longer term.

Liz Pavone: Amanda, one final question. What are your goals for yourself and Flagship as you assume this new role?

Amanda Kay: The goals that I have for myself, as well as the group in Flagship are pretty well aligned. The primary objective of the Business Development team is to drive the closing, of valuable business development deals between our companies and biopharma, really ultimately seeking to accelerate impact on patients and to enable company growth. One of the first things we want to do is deepen our relationships with our potential strategic partners. We want to have a longitudinal dialogue with them so we can get to know their strengths, weaknesses, and strategic needs, so we can know how decisions are made and ultimately influence their thinking, so when they want disruptive innovation, they come to Flagship. We also want to build a team of BD strategists who I'll work with to really get in deep with the companies to build their BD strategies and execute those plans. Given the breadth of companies in the ecosystem, I'm actively looking to fill this role, and we'll grow the group based on demand from there. And finally, the Business Development Group will be looking to build a BD community across the Flagship ecosystem so that we can define and share best practices, mentor up-and-comers, and ultimately assist the companies in building out their business development team over time.

Liz Pavone: Stephen, Amanda, thank you for joining us today and sharing your thoughts on how this new function will help Flagship forge new partnerships. For more on Flagship, go to