Small Strategic Partnering Steps Can Create Your Big Picture

May 21st, 2013
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For a new life sciences company seeking to partner early in its development process or even for an existing company in need of a partner to advance a product or technology, creating an overall strategy isn’t as easy as it sounds. After having worked with dozens of life science companies – of various sizes, stages of growth and points along the product development cycle – I’ve identified a series of “steps,” that provide a sense of strategic direction as you seek partners in the journey from the laboratory bench (or work room) to market. In this post, I outline the first step – knowing where you are in the strategic partnering process.
Step One: Know where you are in the strategic process
Many companies have a strategy developed already. In other cases, they don’t. Some life sciences companies are in very early stages where they have technologies or intellectual property that might be of commercial value, but haven’t formulated thoughts on where the innovation might have the most value, or where the easiest path to value might lie – particularly from a partnering perspective.
Regardless of where a company is in this strategic process – it’s vital to know where they stand as they consider partnering efforts.
For example:


  • If a company says it has it all figured out, then typically the objectives of a strategic partnership are straightforward, often, for example, to market the product. In this case, we don’t need to consider other needs like modifying the product, or changing its design. Simply, we’re helping the company sell an existing product/service to a strategic partner.
  • If a company strategy needs refinement, we spend more time helping it go through scenarios beyond what the management team may have envisioned. One scenario, for example, involves exploring whether putting an app or other program on a mobile platform instead of a big instrument would make it more interesting to a broader market, and thus, to a larger universe of prospective partners.
  • For companies that have no strategy at all, we can be a true, integrated partner. In the case of a professor who makes a discovery, thinks it has commercial value and can make a difference to society, for example, there are a lot of questions to answer before that discovery gets to become a commercially available diagnostic or therapeutic innovation. Questions cover regulatory issues, clinical trials to validate the discovery, and a host of sales and marketing issues (including how to even get to market).

For the third case (and even for the other two, at times), getting third-party assistance may be the only answer to commercialization. Often, for example, the best option for the professor with the exciting discovery is to partner with an established diagnostic company to finish development, take on the responsibility of clinical trials and regulatory submissions, and to dedicate the sales and marketing resources to help ensure that the discovery brings about the difference that the professor had hoped it would. And, of course, there are variations on this theme. Sometimes various partners are needed – some for development, others for clinical trials, and another for sales and marketing.
What kind of partner are you looking for? What stage of development do you believe you’re in? What needs do you foresee that would be best met by a partner? While the first of these usually mentioned is money, others often arise upon reflection.
The next step in the process? In future posts, we’ll talk about strategy refinements that turn financial gain from a wish to a plan. To be sure you don’t miss the next part in this series and to learn more about my take on the strategic partnering process, please subscribe to our newsletter, follow us on Twitter, or send me an email.

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About the Author:

I co-founded Popper and Company more than ten years ago to help life science companies at all stages of development and of all sizes address inefficiencies in health care. Along with my team members, I focus on helping clients develop and implement strategies that enable the application of technology and processes to improve health care in novel ways, often through the establishment of relationships with industry partners. Click to send me an email.