The Rhythm of Business President Jan Twombly Keynotes Boston Biopharma Alliances Conference

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Tells Audience Industry Conditions Are Improving, Collaborations Are More Important, and Alliance Professionals Must Now Take the Spotlight

Janice M. Twombly, CSAP, president of Boston-area consultancy The Rhythm of Business, Inc., gave the keynote address at the recent “Strategic Alliances for Pharma Innovation” conference, sponsored by American Leaders and held Sept. 26–27, 2013 in Boston. (The Rhythm of Business was a gold sponsor of the conference.)

Twombly told the audience of biopharma alliance professionals gathered at the Omni Parker House in downtown Boston that with the biopharmaceutical landscape changing rapidly and the end of the worst aspects of patent-expiration downturns, realizing the value in existing alliances and partnering to improve research productivity are increasingly important to companies’ success, and thus the contributions of professional alliance managers are all the more crucial.

In her keynote address, entitled “The Path Forward: A Strategic Roadmap for Alliance Managers,” Twombly noted that with biopharma companies cutting costs, shedding jobs and scaling back their R&D departments, the new model for biopharma R&D will rely on open innovation, multiparty collaborative networks and partnerships that cut across R&D activities and increasingly across company and global boundaries. Thus, the development of a professional alliance management capability within organizations has become paramount—no longer just for late-stage drug alliances, but now increasingly for early-stage research productivity as well. As Twombly stated, “The opportunity for biopharma alliance professionals to make significant contributions has never been greater—nor has the requirement to produce tangible, measurable value.”

Drawing upon a recent study conducted by The Rhythm of Business, the 2012 Practice of Alliance Management in the Pharmaceutical Industry, Twombly explained what the executive suite expects from those managing alliances and collaborations and how organizations large and small must improve their ability to deliver. Essentially, said Twombly, alliance managers must do four things:

  •     Know the business really well and truly understand their company and their partner—the strategies, culture, people, processes and relevant global activities
  •     Develop their individual and their company’s expertise at partnering
  •     Lead the alliance and drive it toward alignment, both internally and with partner(s)
  •     See around corners in order to avoid and mitigate risk and get out in front of potential “brushfires”

“Because of where we are in the industry, the value of alliance management and what it brings is critical,” Twombly said. “The biopharmaceutical industry is bouncing back. It’s projected to grow in the next five years, where it has shrunk in the past few years. Partnering is the lifeblood of the industry, a key enabler of growth. Alliance-dependent revenue is both being realized currently and in the pipeline. We are also seeing that as companies take approved drugs into smaller markets globally, manufacturers are developing more collaborative relationships with distributors and treating the commercial relationships marketing a single drug as a collaborative network.

“The industry has dealt with the ‘patent cliff’; 2015 is the next peak year for sales being lost and that’s already been factored into the portfolio,” Twombly continued. “That’s the ‘pivot,’ and now we’re looking forward to ‘future proofing’ the organization. That means improving the productivity of research and drug development and dealing with costs, which currently means an increased focus on academia, more open-innovation approaches including crowdsourcing, precompetitive multistakeholder initiatives, the innovation centers companies are building in scientific hotbeds, such as Cambridge, Mass., and Singapore—all of that. Not all of these trends require collaborative relationships, but most of them require some degree of interaction externally—it’s all about going outside. So it’s time for alliance managers to step up the value they provide to their organizations.”

Twombly urged her audience, most of whom had alliance responsibility either explicitly in their job titles or otherwise, to look clearly at the road ahead in the biopharma industry, and to seize the opportunity placed before them. As industry conditions become more favorable, she noted, collaboration will become more important and executives will be more engaged with alliances—which poses both challenge and opportunity for alliance managers, to deliver on their alliances’ success as intended in company strategy. As Twombly concluded, “The open road awaits, and opportunity for alliance managers abounds.”

About The Rhythm of Business, Inc.
The Rhythm of Business provides expert alliance and collaboration management consulting and education services to global companies, not-for-profit organizations and government agencies. The firm guides organizations through the earliest stages of developing their alliance capability, and works with alliance management leaders to enhance alliance performance and extend the alliance capability enterprise-wide.

Informed by groundbreaking research and more than a decade of hands-on work with clients across diverse industries, The Rhythm of Business supports clients through all the steps required to design, implement, govern, expand, optimize, measure and assess strategic alliances and other collaborative networks. Customized learning programs and other educational offerings blend theory and practice with an eye toward delivering alliance success.

The Rhythm of Business, Inc., is based in Newton, Mass., USA. For more information, visit

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Michael Burke
JW DeWitt Business Communications
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