Xconomy Videos: Sirtris’ Westphal and Millennium’s Dunsire Talk Cures for Ills of Big Pharma

11/13/09

There’s new a dynamic at work in Big Pharma’s acquisitions of biotech companies in Boston and elsewhere. Drug companies don’t only want to buy biotech firms to enhance their R&D pipelines, they want to bring the innovators behind the biotechs into the fold—and often give them prominent roles in the parent company. (This is a change from the past practice of pharma buyers gutting biotechs post-acquisition.) So last week, we conducted exclusive video interviews with two biotech executives whose firms have been recently acquired by large pharmaceutical companies and who reflect the new era—Deborah Dunsire, CEO of Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company, and Christoph Westphal, CEO of Sirtris, a GSK company.

Both were brought into the Big Pharma fold last year (Dunsire became an employee of Takeda Pharmaceutical Company after the Japanese drug giant acquired Millennium for a whopping $8.8 billion last May, and Westaphal joined the ranks of GlaxoSmithKline in June 2008, when the British pharma powerhouse bought Sirtris for $720 million.) And both were given roles on the front lines of product innovation at their respective companies. So we asked both Dunsire and Westphal about what they think are the most exciting new therapeutic platforms in their industries, and what big drug-makers need to do to maintain their edge.

Not to give too much away, but both pointed to different technologies or platforms poised to transform their industries. Dunsire answered the second question with why she things Big Pharma is going to get smaller—and how that could be good for innovation. Westphal good-naturedly riffed on a comparison between the challenges faced by pharma and by journalism.

Both these interviews took place at last week’s Xconomy Forum: Pharma’s Bet on Boston Innovation in Cambridge, MA, where Dunsire and Westphal gave keynote addresses. But before you watch the videos, here’s my disclaimer: I’m a writer, so please remember that when you’re listening to the stammering interviewer (me) who is (thankfully) off camera. Also, give ample credit to the man behind the video camera, our own Richard Freierman, whose job title at Xconomy is business manager (but who obviously does much more than make sure the lights stay on.) Finally, please forgive all the background noise with Dunsire’s video. While we spoke with Westphal before the event got going, the party was in full swing (as you can hear) when we caught up with the Millennium CEO.

Deborah Dunsire

Christoph Westphal

Please let us know what you think about these videos, and how we could make such interviews better in the future.

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