Boehringer Ingelheim’s new R&D strategy focuses on external innovation

August 26, 2016 ctheodoropulos

Innovation occurs globally, in small biotechs, academic labs and big pharmas. Boehringer Ingelheim taps into that, working closely with a wide variety of business partners to develop the best ideas into medical breakthroughs for patients throughout the world. Paola Casarosa, PhD, corporate VP, business development and licensing (BD&L)/prescription medicines at Boehringer Ingelheim talks with partneringNEWS about some of the innovative ways Boehringer Ingelheim is working with its partners.

Paola Casarosa

Paola Casarosa, PhD, Corporate VP, Business Development and Licensing (BD&L)/Prescription Medicines, Boehringer Ingelheim

partneringNEWS (pN): How does Boehringer Ingelheim pave the way for business collaborations?

Paola Casarosa (PC): We are truly interested in innovative science no matter where it originates. Therefore, an increased focus on external innovation is a central element of Boehringer Ingelheim’s new R&D strategy. Paving the way for business collaborations at Boehringer Ingelheim starts with a mindset—shared by all employees—that puts external innovation and working closely with our business partners first.

At a practical level, our business development team attends partnering meetings and meets one-on-one with biotech companies, academic institutions and other potential partners.  We have representatives around the globe in North America, Europe and Asia, and are committed to adapting to our partners’ needs to maximize the benefit from collaborations for both sides.

pN: Many companies have global R&D interests. What’s unique about your approach to finding and fostering innovation?

PC: In Boston, we have launched a program called BI Office Hours, where emerging companies can meet with some of our senior-level experts in various disciplines (including medical and marketing) for advice and mentoring. The program has been well received by the participants, and we recently held our inaugural session in New York City. We are discussing how this can expand into other scientific communities.

Boehringer also has initiated a program called Research Beyond Borders (RBB), which will extend our partnering efforts into areas beyond our core therapeutic interests and will assess novel groundbreaking technologies.

We also have a particular focus on early innovation. Therefore Boehringer has developed extensive internal capabilities with three major R&D centers and around 4,000 employees worldwide in our newly-designed innovation unit. This, combined with our unique, long-term approach in R&D, puts us in a preferential position to develop innovative, novel treatment approaches jointly with our partners, creating meaningful medical breakthroughs for patients with unmet medical need.

We are happy to go off the beaten track to develop new ways of collaboration as we engage and support life science communities at the local level.

pN: Why are external relationships important to your continued innovation?

PC: Boehringer Ingelheim focuses on developing first-in-class medical breakthroughs that meet patients’ unmet medical needs. We believe, increasingly, that this will only be possible when we join forces with the best biomedical innovators throughout the world. With the launch of our newly-designed innovation unit, we strive to even better complement our partners’ capabilities for mutual benefit.

We have active partnerships in various preclinical and clinical stages in all of our therapeutic areas and along the whole value chain. They include:

  • Immunology and respiratory: Inventiva (France) and Harvard (MA) collaborations in fibrotic diseases
  • Cardio-metabolic: Hydra Biosciences (Cambridge, MA) in renal diseases and disorders, Circuit Therapeutics (Menlo Park, CA) in obesity, Pharmaxis (Australia)  in-licensing in NASH
  • CNS: Arena (San Diego, CA) in CNS, Circuit (Menlo Park, CA) and BioMedX (Germany) in psychiatric diseases
  • Oncology: MD Anderson Cancer Center (Houston, TX) in pancreatic cancer, Hanmi (South Korea) in NSCLC, and CureVac (Germany) in immune oncology
  • New technologies: University of Dundee (Dundee, UK) in PROteolysis TArgeting Chimeric molecules (PROTACs).

pN: What role do innovation hubs like Boston play in your continued development?

PC: A small, innovative team from our business development and venture fund units is helping us identify collaboration opportunities in Boston. We are constantly expanding our efforts in innovation hubs like Boston by sponsoring activities like partnering days. We also are setting up representation in other innovation hubs throughout the world.

Those teams are looking for opportunities in our core therapy areas of cardiometabolic diseases, CNS, immunology, oncology and respiratory. We’ll look at other opportunities, too. For example, we are interested in new scientific concepts that may fall outside these core areas but could offer ways to enter new medical fields in the future. To do this, our RBB team is actively seeking collaboration projects that have the potential to enable future medical breakthroughs. Likewise, our corporate venture fund (which invests strategically in early innovation) is active in the fields of regeneration, immune modulation, immune oncology and novel therapeutic modalities.

pN: How has your business model regarding collaborations evolved over the years?

PC: We have continuously expanded our partnering efforts and now have ongoing partnerships with many different entities, including other big pharma companies. These range from strategic alliances and traditional licensing agreements to option or asset purchase agreements. We also have our own corporate venture fund, which invests in platform approaches with the potential to drive new therapeutic directions.

Each partnership is different and the deal we build around each is unique. Building on relationships with our partners is important to us. For example, we have two collaborations with Hydra in different therapeutic areas. We also view strategic relationships with academic institutions, such as the one we have just embarked on with Harvard to discover novel treatments for severe fibrotic diseases, as highly attractive.

pN: What do you hope to achieve at the upcoming BioPharm America™ partnering conference in September?

PC: BioPharm America is a key opportunity for us to meet potential new partners, learn about emerging science, and continue to foster relationships with the biotech community in Boston.

pN: Thank you for taking time to talk with us, Dr. Casarosa.


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