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How stakeholder insight adds value to your asset and drug development program

John McDermott

Thinking early about market access is something many small and virtual biotech firms don’t automatically plan to do. They may assume it’s something a co-development partner will handle later in the development timeline. However, even preliminary market assessments can go a long way toward helping a biotech and its asset stand out against the competition when innovators talk with potential development partners about selling or licensing arrangements.

“Having a commercialization roadmap enhances the value of your asset,” says John McDermott, VP, market access services at Covance. It shows potential development partners that there is, in fact, a likely commercial market. De-risking novel molecules this way enhances their value, helping them command better terms or higher valuations during licensing or acquisition negotiations.

Early insights add value

One of the common missteps leaders of biotechs make is focusing too heavily on the science when talking with investors and potential development partners. Although the science is vital, “payers, providers and patients care about outcomes and efficacy. They are less interested in the details of the mechanism of action. Realizing that commercial stakeholders are not fascinated by how a drug works is a reality check for some companies. Getting insights like this is one of the reasons to get stakeholder feedback early,” McDermott says.

Early engagement with stakeholders de-risks projects, he continues. “It lets you say you’ve done your homework and have positive feedback from payers and prescribing physicians over and above the scientific evidence, thus indicating the product not only works but has commercial appeal.” This assurance of a ready market makes your product more appealing for potential partners and investors.

“All companies—but particularly emerging biotechs—need to be aware of the commercial realities their products will face,” McDermott says. “If your molecule is launching into a bundled oncology payment system, for example, it may be very difficult to command premium prices if prices in that category aren’t already high. To justify a top price, there may need to be an offset— less hospitalization, fewer complications, an actual cure…. That’s where the discussion of value comes into play. There are any number of ways of measuring the impact on patients, and that measurement is part of the value.” This is the validation your potential partners are looking for as they make their go/no-go investment decisions.

McDermott advises companies to begin planning their market access strategies about the time molecules enter Phase I trials or begin planning Phase II trials. “At this point, companies haven’t committed large amounts of money, and they have a good idea of what the end-product actually will do. They may have assessed the general parameters of the commercial model and the pricing they’ll need to make it viable and can share that information with potential development partners.”

For your development partner, the insights gained by developing a commercialization strategy early on can guide go/no go decisions, identify comparators, determine the best route to market, identify potential hurdles and predict the competitive landscape when the product is commercialized, which is information they will certainly appreciate and value.

“Getting this early market intelligence doesn’t have to be expensive,” McDermott concludes. In most cases, it can cost just a few thousand dollars to get started. Ultimately, getting preliminary commercial insight can be extremely valuable because with it, you can plan the right study.

Years of market access experience

Covance, a contract research organization, provides market access services to deliver robust, discovery through commercialization services for the life sciences industry. “When you think about CROs in today’s industry, they need to have full, end-to-end capabilities to be relevant. Covance is the only CRO that can deliver that full range of services, from discovery to commercialization,” says McDermott. Covance Market Access Services began as an independent reimbursement consulting firm in 1988.

Covance has aligned its market access, commercialization, regulatory, development and discovery groups to create an integrated, multi-disciplinary team. “Our approach ensures companies have all the components they need for a successful program,” McDermott says.

The most successful programs consider market access strategies early. “Emerging biotechs, however, often assume co-developers will handle commercialization. They will, but leaving it up to them reduces the value of your asset,” McDermott says. “Developing your strategy early helps differentiate your solution from the sea of molecules potential partners are considering for their pipelines. By giving them a first glimpse of your molecule’s commercial potential, you maximize your value.”

Join us this year to access the industry's premier life science partnering event, BioPharm America™ in Boston September 26–27, 2017, to connect with strategic partners and get your innovation funded. No other event combines high-caliber partnering with intensive networking in an intimate setting.

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