How our Boston innovation hub helps us build external collaborations
November 1, 2019
Liz Leveille’s calendar is full of opportunities that could lead to better patient care.
There’s coffee with an entrepreneur who’s working on a new therapy for neurodegenerative diseases; negotiations with a biotech company that’s found a new approach for fighting cancer; and a panel discussion about industry-academic alliances at a teaching hospital. She’s more likely to be on time for every rendezvous, with no flights or trains to slow her down. Liz simply rides the elevator to another floor, walks down the street or takes a quick Lyft ride.
“Our office is located within a huge cluster of companies and labs working in the life sciences,” says Liz, who heads up our Boston Innovation Hub in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “Being in the city allows our business development and licensing (BD&L) team to interact face-to-face with scientists in academia, biotech companies, hospitals and other pharma companies that share our mission: to find the next life-changing solution for patients.”
An ecosystem for innovation
The Boston-Cambridge area is home to more than 500 biotech companies, four of the nation’s top teaching hospitals and 48 colleges. The BD&L team sits in the thick of it, determined to find, evaluate, negotiate, acquire or partner with the external life sciences community that represents “the next scientific disruptions to address some of the world’s greatest unmet medical needs,” says Mark Stencik, transactions lead for the BD&L team in Cambridge. “We’re on the ground level of where it all happens, and that’s exciting. Feedback from external parties has been extremely positive, given the ease of working with us and the transparent and clear path forward in our deal process.”
Key company colleagues are within easy reach too. Our Cambridge Exploratory Science Center and MRL Venture Fund are co-located down the hall, and one of our large research facilities operates about a mile away in the Boston Longwood Medical area.
‘Finding extraordinary molecules’
The Boston BD&L team is the first of several innovation hubs launched by our company since 2014. We also have hubs in London and South San Francisco as well as the BD&L team in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and BD&L leaders in Shanghai, Sydney and Tokyo.
The BD&L team is all about finding extraordinary molecules that potentially could have a profound impact on the patients we serve.
Ben ThornerGlobal head of BD&L for our company’s research business
In the past two years, the BD&L team has reviewed more than 2,000 opportunities and locked in more than 100 deals, “always seeking quality over quantity,” Ben says.
Pumping up our pipline and portfolio
External collaborations and deals are an important part of our R&D strategy. They represent nearly 60% of our early pipeline and more than half of our commercial revenues.
Our BD&L team at the Boston hub is organized around vaccines, infectious diseases, oncology, immunotherapy, neuroscience and more. It is looking for great science in the Boston area as well as other New England states and eastern provinces of Canada.
“Our goal is to understand what’s new, rather than chase after a shopping list,” says Liz. “We’re open to anything that differentiates for patients and meets an unmet medical need.”
Recent deals led by the Boston BD&L team include the acquisition of Tilos Therapeutics and collaborations with Skyhawk Therapeutics, Harvard University and Dragonfly Therapeutics, all presenting potential opportunities to address unmet medical needs.
“Great medicine begins with a great conversation,” says Liz. “That’s why we spend time building relationships and sowing seeds that may one day bear fruit.”
Giving back to the life sciences community
The BD&L team is passionate about life sciences and fueling innovation in the community. Team members mentor the next wave of scientists through the MassCONNECT program from MassBIO, which matches entrepreneurs with seasoned professionals.
They also consult with startups and university professors about how to talk to and work with large companies, how to raise funding, and how to create a business plan.
“We care deeply about those working in the life sciences and want them to be successful,” says Paul Young, executive director, BD&L. “We’re giving back, because we’re all fighting against the same thing: disease. We’ll be stronger if we fight it together.”