In healthcare, business development (BD) is one of our most powerful tools to accelerate scientific innovation. In an industry where companies often race for the title of “first” or “only,” BD offers a valuable avenue for collaboration, connecting complementary knowledge, resources, and infrastructure to go beyond what any one organization can achieve alone.
BD has helped to cultivate a vibrant community of partnerships across nearly all areas of healthcare. But until recently, activity and investment in women’s health were alarmingly stagnant, with just 4% of all healthcare R&D focused here. In the women’s health market – which was historically viewed as “niche” or less exciting than other therapeutic areas – collaboration is even more essential to fuel urgently needed progress. Addressing the crucial care gaps in this long-neglected area requires a creative approach that embraces the full spectrum of collaboration models and partnerships. As one of the only global companies of our size with women’s health as our primary focus, our team at Organon has aimed to be a convener of innovators and assets that address women’s long-standing needs.
Through our entrepreneurial approach to BD, we’ve made substantial headway – and we’ve learned a lot along the way. Here are three key insights on cultivating a successful collaboration in an overlooked area of healthcare:
1. Identify and mine the gaps.
Identifying the most promising opportunities begins with understanding where the critical gaps exist. And for us, that has meant spending a lot of time listening to our healthcare providers, women, and partners. We listen to women who understand firsthand where healthcare falls short of meeting their needs, so that we know what meaningful innovation really looks like. We listen to healthcare providers, whose frontline insights provide an invaluable window into the realities their patients face and what healthcare solutions would be most beneficial to working with women. And we listen to our potential partners to understand their value proposition and how we can collaborate most effectively.
This approach has enabled us to deliver meaningful solutions in some of the most urgent areas. For example, our listening and research revealed a lack of effective treatments for postpartum hemorrhage (PPH), despite it being one of the most common complications of birth. This insight led us to pursue our acquisition of Alydia Health – a commercial stage medical device company that brought to market an innovative medical device intended to provide control and treatment of abnormal postpartum uterine bleeding and hemorrhage where conservative management is warranted.
2. Keep the vision and mission at the center.
Over the course of my career in pharmaceutical BD, I’ve led dozens of deals and been part of countless discussions to evaluate opportunities across diverse therapeutic areas. The common thread that defines a successful collaboration? It must strategically align with the vision and mission of the organizations involved. Of course, commercial and financial considerations will also always be key criteria. But a strong rationale for how the deal will advance long-term aspirations is an equally important factor. For Organon, that means seeking out partnerships with organizations who share our vision of shaping a healthier every day for every woman. This vision-first mindset has ensured that we remain open-minded and “agnostic” in our approach to BD, meaning we search the entire horizon for potential solutions – be they medicines, devices, or other technologies – that can improve the health of women. And that has led us to put in place important collaborations with innovators who are pushing boundaries in areas of significant need, like endometriosis, pre-term labor, and even non-hormonal contraception.
3. Cultivate the ecosystem.
The traditional concept of business development does not capture the broader efforts needed to sustain growth and fuel innovation. Across all areas of healthcare – and even more so in women’s health – we need to mobilize an ecosystem of stakeholders who can join forces to tackle ambitious goals. Importantly, that means we need investors who can provide the capital to support companies who are boldly advancing pioneering science. We need advocates who will continue to shine a light on areas where more research and new solutions are needed. Policymakers who can help create fertile ground for companies to pursue BD opportunities and ensure equitable access to new solutions. Scientists who are motivated to uncover the next big breakthrough. And we also need to welcome new peers, because no single organization can solve the massive challenges in women’s health alone.
It’s only by fostering this ecosystem of innovation and partnerships that we can create a better, more sustainable health future for women everywhere. It’s incredibly rewarding to be leading the way in facilitating powerful collaborations in this space – and we’re excited about the opportunities ahead.
Daniel Karp is Chief Business Development Officer at Organon (NYSE: OGN), a global women’s healthcare company formed in June 2021 through a spinoff from Merck (known as MSD outside the U.S. and Canada). Karp builds and leads global mergers & acquisitions, licensing, collaborations, alliance management, and integration. Additionally, he has served as a Director on the board of directors of Cartesian Growth Corp (Nasdaq: GLBL) and Cartesian Growth Corp II (Nasdaq: RENE).
Previously, Karp served as Executive Vice President, Corporate Development at Biogen, and Vice President, Head of Business Development for R&D and for Vaccines & Oncology at Pfizer.
Karp holds a B.S. in Biology from Duke University and an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Connect with him on LinkedIn at linked.com/in/daniel-karp, or email email@example.com to get in touch.