5 Mar 2010 08:37

Pharma companies driving R & D through partnerships

By Karl Zhong

Shanghai. March 5. INTERFAX-CHINA - Multinational and domestic pharmaceutical companies in China are increasingly paying attention to the importance of collaboration in drug research and development (R & D), according to industry insiders at the Asia Pharma R & D Leaders 2010 Summit held in Shanghai on March 4.

"Our internal analysis shows that 66 percent of the blockbuster molecules developed over in the past decade underwent a change of ownership during development," said Dr. Gregory Wiederrecht, vice president of Merck & Co. Inc.'s worldwide licensing and external research division.

Following Merck's merger with Schering-Plough Corp. last year, Merck has continued building an outward-looking culture which fosters collaboration with academic institutions, biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, Wiederrecht added.

Wiederrecht cited Merck's extension of its collaboration with Addex Pharmaceuticals Ltd. in December 2009 on the development of allosteric modulators for treating Parkinson's disease. He also noted that Japan-based Santen Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. granted Merck exclusive commercial rights to tafluprost, a prostaglandin analogue, in North and South Americas, Western Europe and Africa in April 2009.

Merck currently takes the lead in concluding pharmaceutical licensing deals among multinational drug companies. Figures from global consultancy Deloitte revealed that between January 2005 and September 2009, Merck announced about 130 pharmaceutical licensing deals, followed by F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd. and Pfizer Inc. with no less than 100 licensing deals each.

"Scientific excellence, enthusiasm in open collaboration and a shared vision in bringing the best medicines to patients worldwide are what Merck seeks from its partners," Wiederrecht said.

"The financial crisis have led companies to tighten their belts. Our licensing efforts have become more focused, for example, on small molecule drug discovery," Tom Alfredson, senior director of pharmaceutics at Roche Palo Alto, told Interfax on March 4.

Roche gives equal importance to cooperation with academic institutions and companies, the difference being that academic collaboration is focused more on the use of technology platforms, Alfredson added.

Likewise, Chinese pharmaceutical companies are also increasing collaborative efforts with various institutions and pharmaceutical companies.

"We value partnerships as much as multinational companies do," Simcere Pharmaceutical Group's chief scientific officer Wang Peng said at the forum.

Wang noted that Simcere has cooperated with leading Chinese contract research organization (CRO) Tigermed Consulting Co. Ltd. on clinical development and regulatory filing in China. In October last year, Simcere concluded an agreement with U.S.-based OSI Pharmaceuticals Inc. to develop, manufacture, and market OSI's Kinase insert domain receptor (KDR)/Kit inhibitor OSI-930 in China.