Tapping the potential of digital technology often requires assembling multidisciplinary teams—from external as well as internal businesses—who share data and insights. This trend toward collaboration is developing across industries, including biotech and pharmaceuticals, where advances in medicine are far more likely to come from collaboration between colleagues or companies than from a lone scientist toiling in a lab, asserts Judith Dunn, global head of clinical development at Roche Innovation.
“It’s changed how we hire and how we do business,” she says. “I have a theoretical physicist—a math whiz—whose job is to model disease. I pair him with a biologist. Their work helps us understand safety and efficacy more thoroughly.… We’re also finding that more and more therapies are combination drugs where we need to find out how our drug and another company’s drug work together.”
The need for access to both top talent, academia and potential business partners factored heavily in Roche Innovation’s decision to open a research facility in Manhattan, where the company would be able to engage with medical professionals from the city’s teaching hospitals and medical schools, as well as attract and retain top talent. The new research center is located near the city’s East Side medical corridor in the state-of-the-art Alexandria Center for Life Science building, joining tenants like Eli Lilly and Pfizer.
Biotech company Kallyope also has a facility in the center, and that environment combined and the New York locale has fostered collaborations across the biotech, pharmaceutical and academic spaces to create new health solutions, according to Kallyope CEO Nancy Thornberry.
“Collaborations are absolutely critical to the success of biotech. In the current environment, it’s clear that pharma and biotech need to deliver therapies that are not just incremental advances over what is currently available,” Thornberry says. “There’s a higher bar and a focus on bringing forward therapies that are more breakthrough and transformational and in order to do that it absolutely requires collaboration with academia and with pharma. Our location in New York City really facilitates that.”
Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. developed the Center for Life Science as a space to where companies could come together—a first in the New York market, according to Alexandria’s Senior Vice President—Regional Market Director of the New York City cluster John H. Cunningham.
“[New York City] was essentially an untapped environment where we created a new cluster, working in conjunction with the world-class academic and medical centers that are here,” he says. “We had to develop a platform here to attract people and then create collaboration.”
The level of collaboration between the private health-focused business community and academia has evolved and grown in recent years, resulting in breakthroughs that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.
“There’s no question that there’s an increasing interest in academia to realize the translational potential of their research, and those of us in biotech and pharma recognize that in order to actually achieve breakthroughs on the translational side absolutely requires breakthroughs in the science,” Thornberry says. “It’s a win-win situation for both our academic colleagues and collaborators and those of us who are working on bringing new therapies to patients.”