The Renaissance adage "many hands make light work" has ready application in the current biopharmaceutical industry where external partnerships and collaborations "make" innovation. This is particularly true in rare diseases, where the efforts of many from the lab concept to regulatory pathway to manufacturing and delivery combine to address great unmet medical needs.
If we want to truly embrace the next level of precision medicine, it will require scientists from diverse disciplines to effectively work together. At Shire, we focus on treatments for rare diseases in collaboration with a number of external scientific partners,” says Philip J. Vickers, Ph.D., Global Head of Research and Development at Shire. “In supporting research across the globe on rare diseases across the global we aim to find effectives treatments for some of the 700 rare diseases, many of which have a devastating impact on patients and their caregivers.”
Shire’s years of working with researchers in academia, institutes and other companies as well as regulators and payors has allowed us to define five characteristics of effective partnerships that ultimately advance understanding, research and results in rare diseases. What are the components that create a collaboration that is greater than the sum of its parts? Here's our list:
- Deep scientific capabilities. Regardless of where the partners are from – industry, academia, government or non-profits – deep scientific acumen and resources are essential as a point of entry on both sides. The partnership must create significant, complementary knowledge that becomes the bedrock on which progress is built.
- Catalyzing combination. The partnership must have the potential to serve as a catalyst for the work each organization conducts independently.
- Clear mission. Whether that research mission is as basic as exploring underlying biology of little-studied diseases or as applied as testing a treatment tailored to a specific patient type, a clearly defined, agreed-on mission is required before the work begins.
- Shared vision and mutual trust. Chemistry, culture, work ethic and work styles can foster or impede progress. Due diligence and ongoing commitment is required to create a relationship's shared vision and functionality. Trust is essential to push forward not only when things go right but also when progress is more challenging. Knowing how the team will manage risk, make decisions and solve problems ahead of time goes a long way towards building a respectful partnership set up to deliver results.
- Open communication. The day-to-day work of the partnership might be best understood as one long, ongoing conversation. Open, honest and natural two-way communication is critical. Project management tools, including clearly defined roles, responsibilities, project plans and milestones, all play a role in keeping research on track and establishing expectations. But it is the commitment to continual conversations, whether bench-to-bench or leader-to-leader, that builds a team culture, sparks insights and yields results.
As medical science and biotechnology continue to advance, single-team or even single-organization innovation is becoming the exception rather than the rule. At Shire, the future rests in the hands of partners and collaborators working to develop and – as importantly -- deliver innovative ideas that may lead to life-changing medications for patients who need them.