At this year’s Biopharmaceutical Development and Production (BDP) Week, March 24-27 at the Hilton Bayfront Hotel, I attended several sessions that focused on how to strengthen the relationship between partners in the pharmaceutical industry. One overwhelming theme in each presentation was the importance of communicating effectively and clearly with everyone involved in a project. In our personal lives, we’re taught to maintain open and clear communication in the relationships we keep with family and friends, but in our professional lives, establishing effective communication often becomes overshadowed by business objectives. However, in an industry like pharma, there can be many stakeholders involved in one project and communication is often challenging. Because the nature of biopharmaceutical manufacturing is such that there is so much on the line, clear communication among all stakeholders must be a major priority. After all, if something goes wrong, the impact is widespread.
Have you ever stopped to consider what kind of communication you’re offering your partners? Do your partners understand your needs and do you understand the needs of your partner? These and many others questions around this topic were discussed throughout the four-day conference.
Partnersourcing, Not Outsourcing
Dr. Sonia Kansal, senior manager of biotherapeutics and vaccines outsourcing at Pfizer, says there are several guiding principles considered when Pfizer selects a partner: quality, risk, cost, time, flexibility, and adaptability. However, once they do select one, they engage in what she called a “partnersourcing” relationship, rather than the traditional “outsourcing” one. This means Pfizer and its partner form a relationship that is focused on the overall success of the project with the same end goal in mind, rather than approaching it as different companies driven by different outcomes.
In the case study presented at BDP, Dr. Kansal discussed the relationship she shared with Frank Marchesani, business development executive for Cook Pharmica, during a project they worked on together. Because Cook assigns someone from their executive leadership to every project they enter into, Dr. Kansal had a dedicated contact to reach out to every step of the way. She even joked that they had nicknames for each other by the end and then assured the laughing crowd that it was based solely on an initial mispronunciation of names. It is this style of relationship that allows for a closer level of professionalism, as well as camaraderie, that is often needed but lacking in the industry today.
Bringing A Biobetter To Market
Dr. Kent Pryor, chief operating officer of ZZ Biotech, presented with Dr. Michael Ultee, chief scientific officer at Gallus Biopharmaceuticals, on how to bring a biobetter therapeutic to market. As a virtual biotech, ZZ Biotech has to successfully engage several stakeholders, such as partners, academia, and consultants, and bridge the conversation between everybody in order to produce 3K3A-APC, a treatment for ischemic stroke. ZZ Biotech believes their drug could have a major impact on the billions of dollars the US currently spends due to stroke. Again, creating this bridge requires clear and open communication.
Do Not Fear The Statistician
Tara Scherder, managing director at CRO Arlenda, focused on one relationship in the bio industry that, if not managed successfully, could result in inaccurate conclusions from data—the statistician. As she pointed out, many within the process validation teams often avoid meaningful conversations with statisticians. However, their task is simple to define—save money by reducing risk during the lifecycle of the product. Saving money during process performance qualification (PPQ) is a benefit to each stakeholder, so teams must consider what can be done to improve the communication in these relationships.
Overall, the message of BDP was clear – a commitment to communication not only within your company but also with your partners is also a commitment to quality. By achieving that from the beginning, you’re managing risk to the end, and there is no higher degree of success than patient safety.