Stars aligned beautifully, not long ago, for dealmaking at Celgene.
The company, early this decade, was raking in the dough from the multiple myeloma drug Revlimid. Cash had to be spent somewhere.
Celgene didn’t have much of its own R&D. Shareholders weren’t clamoring for their cut, via quarterly cash dividends. The stock soared, without any jet fueled-share buybacks. Letting cash pile up in the bank, collecting puny interest payments, didn’t make much sense.
Rarely are companies so fortunate. Even more seldom, the company had senior executives who were willing, and empowered, to aggressively execute on a historic partnering spree.
Celgene in the early part of this decade had George Golumbeski in business development and Tom Daniel in early R&D. Both were scientifically minded, and business savvy. They saw a renaissance going on with gene therapy, cell therapy, genomics, targeted cancer drugs. They saw eye-to-eye. They had the support of their boss and the board.
The result: Celgene built a network of 50 collaborations across immuno-oncology, immunology, neuroscience, epigenetics, protein homeostasis and more. Agios Pharmaceuticals, Bluebird Bio, and Acceleron Pharma are a few companies that owe much of their success to an early lift from Celgene.
Nothing lasts forever, though. Bristol-Myers Squibb is putting the finishing touches on its $74 billion mega-acquisition of Celgene. Golumbeski and Daniel have moved on.
Paul Biondi, the senior vice president of business development and strategy at Bristol-Myers Squibb, is well-regarded in biotech innovation circles. He is keeping his job and influential position reporting to the CEO. That’s good news in innovation-land. But nearly everyone in biopharma expects at least a few months of merger-related indigestion to distract the BMS/Celgene team into 2020. Those are sub-optimal conditions for beating out pharma competitors who also want to acquire the hottest platforms and products that biotech has to offer.
So…who in Big Pharma/Big Biotech is poised to become the “new Celgene?” Who has the money, the desire, the humility to lean on innovative little partners for help, and the senior executives with the necessary guts?
Licensing data from the past year, via Informa’s BioMedTracker (see table below) suggests that Gilead Sciences, Genentech/Roche, Eli Lilly, AbbVie, and Biogen are companies to watch, at least in terms of number of deals done over the past 12 months. But there’s more to the story, which I sought to flesh out via conversations with venture capitalists, biotech executives, and a few pharma insiders.
Read on for an inside look at some of the candidates for “most aggressive” in biopharma business development. If you’re lucky, you might be able to schedule a meeting with someone from one of these companies at BioPharm America, coming up Sept. 11-12 in Boston. REGISTER HERE.