Live From BIO: What makes partnerships work?

CHICAGO - Just what makes some partnerships successful, while others fail? A distinguished group of pharma professionals discussed this topic yesterday at the panel After the Honeymoon: Making Partnerships Work. Susanna High, VP of business planning and program management at Alnylam, emphasized the need for senior leadership to commit to the success of the relationship and ensure that hurdles are overcome.

Petra Sansom of Roche told the audience it is important to establish mutual trust between the partners early on. Circumstances can change--the competitive environment, for example--and if trust hasn't been established, even a minor problem can cause the partnership to implode. In addition, it's best for the partners to align their goals ahead of time. Not doing so could derail the partnership.

A representative from Millennium Pharmaceuticals emphasized the need for the partners to develop close relationships. But even the best relationship can be ruined if the parties try to anticipate every future problem in the contract. Making the contract too rigid could prevent the companies from changing it, should the need arise.

Finally, Steve Gilman of Cubist Pharmaceuticals echoed High, saying it's important for someone in senior management to believe in the product that is the subject of the partnership. But he cautioned against either--or both--partner having too much arrogance.