Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Open Innovation (in Biotech/Pharma)

BIA breakfast meeting 28/11/12, BioCity, Nottingham

One of a series of  BIA Breakfast events around the UK; Chaired by BIA CEO Steve Bates, with panel members Clare O’Neil, Original Ventures and Nick Pope, BioSpring Ltd.

Supporting material for Nick’s contribution:

Innovation is “using a novel approach to satisfy a real market need”, and so inherently requires commercialisation. OI tends to be thought of as the ideation and research end only, whereas the later stages are also important.

Open can mean one, or both, of:
1. Collaborative v’s competitive, trusting, operating with a “Win Win” ethos, or
2. Open to outside ideas (Big Pharma)

Open Innovation is generally more open, trusting, with networking at its core, and with True “win-win” working (not just pretending so!). Hence it needs personal and organisational alignment to succeed (see Success Factors).

On the surface, it’s fairly similar to what small co.’s often have done anyway, but to a much greater extent, enabled by the speed, ease and global reach of communications the digital age makes possible. Ownership of resources is no longer key, rather it’s the networks to be able to access the resources that is! (e.g. drug molecule screening in silico, now run in the cloud. Computers are not important, its algorithms & molecules that are).
  • Ideas, IP, Knowledge and knowhow can easily flow!
Open Innovation brings a New Paradigm and New ways of managing innovation:
  • fail quick and learn fast
  • innovation ecosystems rather than Assets,
  • “connectors” (access points) as well as the research itself.
  • An easy way to tap into other skill-sets when you need them.
There is a Spectrum of OI,
a.   Open access journals (e.g. nature’s web journal), Structural  Genomics Consortium making structure data freely available & GSK giving access to its trials data,
b.   Easy Access IP initiative, where Bristol, UCL & Glasgow Universities have opened their “difficult to commercialised” IP to everyone,
c.   Specific company initiatives using portals or agreements to
    1. access new molecules (Lilly’s OIDD portal, or Unilever) or
    2. new applications for (old / failed) molecules (AZ/MRC deal, & NCATS initiative),
d.   Sponsored challenges with funds and a problem, often posted on third party portals such as www.innoget.com, www.innocentive.com, www.kaggle.com
e.   True crowdsourced e.g. www.Zooniverse.org & mechanical turk (https://www.mturk.com/mturk/welcome).

Then there is Crowdfunding e.g.
  1. Seedrs (UKFSA regulated) www.seedrs.com
  2. Wiseed (F) www.wiseed.fr/
“First biotech seed crowdfunding” – Anabio (www.antabio.com/en)
  1. BIA Citizens Innovation Fund (citizens-innovation-funds-report/)
And where Big Pharma are opening up to early stage science through a variety of approaches, including incubatorse.g. GSK & Stevenage BioScience Catalyst, and Merck & not-for-profit Calibr.

Same requirements as usual, but more pragmatic – they are only applied once a project gets to commercial/competitive phase. Not just for the sake of it. But, put clear agreements in place from the start, to deal with IP when it becomes relevant.

Avoid joint IP (it will be if no agreement is in place from start), as in the UK (not USA) jointly owned IP requires All owners to agree to the exploitation by any of the owners! (unless explicitly agreed otherwise).  This can cause big problems if not dealt with in advance.

Success factors
Clear understanding, alignment and agreement by all parties from the start.
·    Personal & organisational alignment – the “soft aspects” that often derail collaborations! - lessons can be learned from other industries, and techniques borrowed (networkedpharma).
·    A well-structured agreement Formal agreement embodying all of this, and incl.
·        Clear Mutual understanding of what each party wants out of it – objectives
·        Clear IP ownership and commercial exploitation rights agreement
·        Agreement project management structure and process aimed at Effective monitoring and management of projects
e.g. Lilly’s web based OI portal for sourcing new molecules establishes a master agreement with each new University/institution as a faculty member wants to submit ideas.  This is then in place for all subsequent members from same institution.
·    High level champion in each organisation
·    Clear open communications (co-location helps)
·    Focused approach
·    Willingness and system to “fail fast, learn quick”
·    Network with multiple connections


  1. NetworkedPharma Funds & Fundability workshop June 2012 (report available Mid December).
  2. Above hyperlinks.

BioSpring Ltd is a member of Networked Pharma Partnership, a not for profit organisation dedicated to assisting development of a new paradigm for drug discover & development

Networked Pharma PartnershipBuilding Innovative Networks in Drug Discovery & Development

A series of workshops are being run to bringing together all stake-holders (Corporate Pharmas, SMEs, CROs, Universities, VCs, CVCs, Research Councils, Charities, Regulators & Government bodies etc.) to help formulate the new business model(s) for the future success of the industry.

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1 comment:

  1. Great post, Nick. What I take from this is that everyone agrees that OI is a 'good thing' but that OI means different things to different people / organisations. That, and the fact that OI means collaboration and collaboration isn't always easy, with many barrier to success.