How to Find Balance in Biotech, Between Owning It All or Finding a Partner

6/16/10

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the scientific team to pursue opportunities in their sweet spot. Once a discovery is made, it is then important to evaluate the needs from a business perspective of how to best develop the product and get it into the hands of patients and physicians. At this point, the question then becomes whether a partner is needed, or if the company can do it on its own.

At Amira, this means allowing our scientists, who have a strong background in bioactive lipids, to follow their intuition for discovering safe and highly-effective drug candidates in this space. We have to be able to do that without the business interests pushing them to move into other, less certain areas of science. Consequently, we do not try to actively direct the science too early, but once we have a target of interest and good drug candidates, we then assess if it is a primary or specialty care drug candidate.

First Deal

For startup organizations, it is often beneficial to find a partner for the lead program for multiple reasons. As previously stated, this partnership can provide an excellent source of non-dilutive financing for future projects. Without a partner, it is likely the early-stage company will need to obtain capital through means that will dilute the value of existing shares. In a normal marketplace, that means the entrepreneurs who formed the company lessen their share substantially. In our current economic climate, it can be very difficult to obtain these additional finances at all. Trying to raise capital in this environment can result in undesirable terms and requires that the management team be out of the office instead of being in a position to drive programs forward. These distractions are not desirable in the early stages of a company.

The other benefit of partnering early is that it gives the company credibility. Once a startup successfully completes its first deal, other potential partners may more readily seek a relationship in the future that would not have been as easy without the validation of the first partnership. The instant validation of your discovery and development efforts provides a “stamp of approval” and added credibility that is useful in raising additional money and moving other programs forward.

Keep Some, Partner Some

When you keep a very small number of programs, even as few as one or two, you allow yourself to focus entirely on that program to move it through the clinic in the best way possible. This allows you to explore every possibility and move the program forward to commercialization. Finding a partner for the larger programs is an excellent way to keep the company fueled with non-dilutive financing.

Bob Baltera is the CEO of San Diego-based Amira Pharmaceuticals. Follow @

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