Big Fish Help Out the Smaller Fish in the Life Sciences Pond
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he has noticed “a greater willingness and a greater sense of participation” from big companies to give advice and share war stories with other players in the industry.
Larta itself has partnered with the National Institutes of Health to help startups that have obtained Small Business Innovation Research Grants (SBIR). In one of Larta’s programs, for example, the institute matches the early-stage companies with a Larta “Principal Advisor,” usually a seasoned business executive hired by Larta to be a guide and mentor during the program.
The mentors and their assigned companies go through the company’s goals and objectives and discuss its research progress. This is a kind of focused attention that many companies should, but don’t, get from their scientific advisory boards. “Boards are often populated by window dressers,” says Shukla.
A program like this is extremely valuable because a great proportion of biotechnology companies, especially the small startups, really know very little about what pharma companies are looking for in a potential partnership. “The complexity of navigating an increasingly complex environment of regulation and liability is not well understood,” says Shukla. Through the mentorship program, smaller companies learn “how to actually play the game with a large company.” According to Shukla, over $400 million has been raised, and 10 acquisitions have taken place, as a result of the program.
Larta also draws on members of its Industry Advisory Board, who represent companies such as Merck, Genzyme, J&J, Allergan, Medtronic, Siemens, and Abbott, to give companies feedback about industry dynamics, or possible partnering deals.
The pharmaceutical industry’s pipeline is looking fairly dry these days, so helping out some of the smaller fish in the life sciences pond is a very smart idea.