Science and teamwork are important factors for companies considering acquisitions, collaborations, or partnerships in the dry eye space. That was the consensus of corporate leaders participating on the “Industry Perspective” panel at the OIS Dry Eye Innovation Showcase, moderated by Paul Karpecki, OD, FAAO, associate professor, UPike College of Optometry/Kentucky Eye Institute.
The decision comes down to the science – the novelty of the therapeutic, and the modality or the approach, said Doug Faunce, PhD, executive director, search and evaluation, eye care & corporate strategy, Allergan/AbbVie. “Ideally we look for something that is a clear disease-modifying therapeutic,” Dr. Faunce said.
He also noted that it’s important to determine if interpersonal chemistry exists between the companies, which will make the collaboration work.
Strategies Must Align
Sajjad Roshanali, global head, ocular surface at Johnson & Johnson Vision, agreed with Dr. Faunce, saying there needs to be a good strategic alignment between the companies involved. He said that J&J’s approach is to believe everything starts with the patients and the doctors.
“When choosing a partner I want someone that’s aligned with that,” Roshanali said. He added that a company his team chooses to work with must have technology that will serve a patient need, and make sure doctors are well armed not only to treat those patients but also make a reasonable profit.
Rob Kissling, MD, VP, medical affairs, Bausch + Lomb, followed up on the point. He said that beyond due diligence, the litmus test for getting doctors what they need must answer this question: “Does this allow the clinician to do something desirable that they currently can’t?”
Kissling noted that B+L recently bought a dry eye asset that fits this criteria. “It could potentially allow the clinician to do something different,” he said, “and that’s sort of been our guiding light.”
Acquisitions and Agnosticism
Mark Hagler, SVP, head of ophthalmics, oncology, and long-term care at Sun Pharma, said Sun typically wants to acquire because the company has found partnerships to be somewhat challenging to manage. “So we like to buy assets or, for earlier-stage companies, we like to invest and get an option or right-of-first-refusal on those assets,” he said.
Jehan Tamboowalla, head of new ophthalmic products, Novartis, said his company takes an agnostic approach as to whether the science comes from an internal source or a partnership, but one force that drives its decision-making is the innovation behind the science.
“If you can’t measure up on the science side you’ll be left behind, and that’s honestly to the benefit of the patient,” he said. “You’re not looking at incrementalism. What you’re producing is not just sort of a quarter-step forward.”
Novartis also looks for clear differentiation versus competition, which leads to compelling pricing and good access. Another key factor Tamboowalla and his team seek is for a pre-launch asset to have a sound development program. He said he has seen many situations where the strategy is sound but the development doesn’t match it. “It really has to be a good fit between the partners for it to work,” he added. “Otherwise it just creates problems down the road and it’s not worth it.”