With a new management team firmly in place, Pierre Fabre is turning to partners to realize a fresh strategy.
“We are making big changes in the way we operate with a focus on external growth,” said Frederic Desdouits, who leads the Business Development and Market Intelligence group for a company that may be better known to consumers for its health and beauty products than to dealmakers at pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.
Frederic Desdouits, Pierre Fabre
“We are changing gears,” he said. “We want to accelerate the construction of the pipeline and our access to innovation, not only for assets and products. We are in active discussions with technology platforms.”
At BIO-Europe Spring® he said Pierre Fabre is on the hunt to in-license innovative programs in oncology, hematology and dermatology at any stage of development, or psychiatry for programs in late preclinical development and early Phase I. Assets in the field of women’s health are of interest at any stage, though he notes there has been little in the way of innovation in this space.
“Our business is roughly half pharmaceutics and half dermo-cosmetics, effectively making us a skin company with products from acne to sunscreens. We have an expertise in dermatology and it remains a major theme for the company,” said Desdouits.
“We have cash, we have a strong financial position, and we have a chief executive who is wiling to take on risk for key assets that are going to accelerate the company and carry it into a new era,” he said.
“Our objective is to build up the pipeline to sustain growth,” he said. “We are going to identify a few very good projects to partner that will be game-changers for the company. Our prescription products business is between EUR 600 million and EUR 700 million, which is not huge, such that one good deal with an innovative asset could really make a difference.”
“This is one of our key points in speaking with potential partners,” said Desdouits. “If Pierre Fabre decides to take on their program, whether it is for a Phase I or Phase II asset, or even the rights for a certain territory, as a partner we are going to do everything to make it succeed. Their molecule will not be one of 20 in our pipeline, but one of the few that we are developing, so they will get the best of our efforts.”
With products for out-licensing as well, Desdouits said he will be wearing two hats at BIO-Europe Spring in Paris.
“In our pipeline we hold products in cardiology that we will not be developing, molecules that will need a strong partner to carry through that development. We have a PhaseII program in schizophrenia and early-stage compounds in pain management that we do not intend to develop up to registration and will actively be looking for partners, and a global partner would probably make the most sense for these compounds,” he said.
In December, Pierre Fabre announced a major restructuring, including an objective of reducing by one-third internal R&D to bring down the fixed costs linked to this activity. Yet the company announced it is reinforcing its biotechnology research group that currently is made up of more than 100 scientists.
“We have out-licensed products from this team to Abbott or to Merck Sharp & Dohme. We have the knowledge, expertise and a strong scientific platform, yet it has not been an open system with only a few small partnerships for in-licensing. This is what is going to change,” said Desdouits.
The business development group also has been reinforced with the recruitment of six people, bringing the team to 14 people with resources to operate in a wider world.
“We have not been a global player with prescription products, more of a mid-sized player that is not in the United States, nor in Japan. We have just launched our first product in China. Our strengths are in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, or South America where we are especially strong in Brazil, Mexico and Argentina,” he said.
“What this means to a partner is that they can keep the rights to their product in certain territories. For example we could structure deals where the US rights stay with the partner. Or if they think it would be interesting to have our support in the US, we may consider a plan to implement a US strategy for their product, if it is the right asset with the right partner at the right time,” he said.
“We are a very good partner for emerging, innovative companies that want to keep some control on their asset, want to develop the asset and not just sell the company. For a company that has a business plan to build something around their asset, we are a long-term partner,” Desdouits said.
“When a biotech meets with us, they will be impressed by the quality of our people and our commitment to creating value. We can be quite creative,” he said.
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