In the face of ongoing economic pressure and risk aversion, the evolution of partnering in drug development "is leading to a re-evaluated approach to biotechnology", according to consultants Deloitte.

Speaking ahead of chairing a session on the opportunities and challenges in pharmaceutical partnering at the BioPartnering Europe Conference in London, Jason Rushton, life sciences leader for Deloitte Switzerland, said that reducing drug development risk "from the outset and cost sharing have become essential". He added that the old biotechnology model of ‘going it alone’, financing and developing a product to clinical proof of concept, "followed by a high value out license to a big pharmaceutical company is rare and increasingly less valid".

He went on to say that "it is no longer sufficient to demonstrate just safety and efficacy". Rather, "drug developers need to show true product differentiation via label claims, defined payer benefits and, factor in the impact of reimbursement to make informed drug development and commercialisation decisions.”

Mr Rushton continued by arguing  that "the smarter biotechnology groups need to take on partners and engage in a whole new way". This means they need to talk to big pharma "as early as possible, seeking to learn from their larger peers and creating collaborative drug developments that are not only less risky, because of the shared resource and skills employed, but also of higher quality".

He concluded by saying that "the reception and interest to such an approach amongst the licensing teams at the major pharmaceutical groups is strongly positive".  Many of them are aware that with "return on investment on in-house R&D under pressure, a source of quality, externally-derived drug candidates cannot be ignored".