How one of the most stunning deals went down

August 22, 2014 Erin Righetti

Millman, Robert 2014On Tuesday, September 23, 2014 at BioPharm America™ in Boston, Robert Millman will join a panel discussing the inside story for one of the most stunning and inspiring pharma-biotech deals in recent memory between CoStim and Novartis in immunotherapy. Managing Director at MPM Capital in Boston, Millman spoke with partneringNEWS™ ahead of the event.

Here are few excerpts:

“CoStim was built on two things. First the idea that it was not too late for PD-1 therapy [programmed cell death-1]. Even though there are leaders in the space, we had an eloquent IP story that provided a freedom to operate in that zone.

“We built on the idea oncology was going to be moving toward combo-combo therapies, therefore a monotherapy approach with a single agent was not the path to take.

“Instead we wanted an ability to pair PD-1 with other agents. Novartis announced this approach was very important in their consideration as they want to combine it with their CAR [chimeric antigen receptor] technology. We found several other agents that we believed were either best-in-class or equal to the first-in-class and brought them into the company.

“I think that every pharma needs to have a base for immunotherapy agents, and PD-1 ends up being the base therapy….Having your own base becomes very important from a pricing point of view. PD-1 alone without a biomarker is not the right strategy. This is where we were going to differentiate, with a very robust biomarker platform where we had a way, even though it requires restricting the patient population, to drive efficacy way above the market leaders. In a USD 10 billion oncology market, even 10% of the population is still a blockbuster.

“The biggest hurdle I faced was convincing my partners that novelty, novelty, novelty is not always the thing that is needed. That having completely validated targets and not being too far behind on the clinical development path does not make the program a non-starter.

“Right now there is an incredible competition for good ideas. We are all science wanks, so the right science pitch is going to get the interest. But the way you get in the door is through your founders and your advisers….One of the reasons CoStim was able to get pharma’s interest is that we had some of the leaders in immunotherapy discovery….I used to think if you invest in quality science everything follows, but my experience taught me to place as much, if not more, credence on the team. You can’t bet on everything being successful. It will be the team that will make a success.”

You can read more of the interview on partneringNEWS™ here.

You can meet with Robert Millman and other leading industry dealmakers at BioPharm America.

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