Are We On The Precipice Of Unprecedented Collaboration In Biopharma?
By Rob Wright, Chief Editor, Life Science Leader
Follow Me On Twitter @RfwrightLSL
Having gotten up on the wrong side of the bed, my mood was a bit doom and gloom. That is until I read the following headline, “Sanofi, in an unusual move, to help Pfizer produce vaccine doses.” My immediate thought? “THAT’S SO AWESOME!” Reading the story, one might say, “Well that just makes good business sense. The company’s efforts to develop its own COVID-19 vaccine stumbled, so why not maximize manufacturing capacity of existing facilities to minimize loses and increase efficiencies.” Olivier Bogillot, president, Sanofi France, is quoted as having said, “We had a slight delay on one of our vaccine candidates and decided to use that time to mobilize our production capacities to help with the Pfizer one.” It seems so “ho-hum” that you can almost picture Bogillot having to stifle a yawn. But to me, this bit of good news simply seems huge, and for a number of reasons.
The past four years brought the world a noticeable absence of collaboration between countries. Many might want to heap a lot of the blame on the previous U.S. administration. But plenty of countries can be found to have been more selfish than selfless of late. There was Brexit. China dragged its feet on the timely sharing of information regarding the COVID-19 outbreak. There were travel bans. In the early days of the pandemic, we watched country after country turn away cruise ships from their ports. And Russia did what Russia does. But 2021 holds the potential to usher in a new era of unprecedented collaboration. The Sanofi announcement is just a tiny example of what can be achieved when we collaborate. Sure, we can downplay it as merely being the execution of a best business practice. But if we take to heart the notion that most biopharmas espouse (i.e., put the patient first and the profits will follow), then we shouldn’t be surprised if Merck and others step up to do their part with what we already have. Imagine the amount of goodwill that such an effort would create for companies and the industry. Imagine how beneficial this could be for the reputation of an industry that has so lagged. And, just imagine how such collaborations would further accelerate learning and innovation between such biopharma participants.
The current president views success against COVID-19 as requiring a wartime effort. If such is the case, then can we set aside certain antitrust laws for the time being for benefit of the greater good? Because the sooner we get the world to herd immunity against COVID-19, the sooner we can begin collaboratively addressing the other problems of the world that loom on the horizon —and that — would be a very good thing.