November 30, 2020 / All Stories

Partnerships during a pandemic: 3 reasons why they’re critical

Global partnerships help give scientists an edge against tough diseases and viruses, from COVID-19 to autoimmune disorders.

AbbVie’s strategic partnerships are a powerful path to scientific discovery.

Bringing Innovative Thinkers Together

When it comes to partnerships, AbbVie’s point of view is simple: They tip the balance in favor of success for patients. Whether it’s bolstering smaller biotechs, teaming up with universities or joining forces with other pharma companies around the world, partnerships are a powerful path to scientific discovery.

This approach is even more critical in 2020 and beyond, as AbbVie partnerships grow in scope and depth and align with global needs like COVID-19 potential treatments.

“AbbVie has always leveraged partnerships to remain creative, nimble and innovative as we develop therapies that target unmet needs around the world,” says Tom Hudson, M.D., senior vice president of research and development and chief scientific officer at AbbVie. “Partnerships leverage the best minds at AbbVie with the best minds outside our walls. It’s a powerful way to move science forward for patients.”

With the recent acquisition of Allergan, AbbVie has allocated significant funding for additional business development. The company continues to pursue strategic opportunities that fit within key focus areas.

This year, AbbVie announced multiple new partnerships. This includes an oncology collaboration with the Danish company Genmab, a deal with the Japanese biotech Sosei Heptares to study inflammatory diseases and an immuno-oncology agreement with the Chinese clinical stage biotech I-Mab.

AbbVie’s scientific leaders detail three ways partnerships complement the company’s research and development priorities.

1. Quick pivots: Tackling urgent health issues

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, AbbVie joined forces with 22 other pharma and life sciences companies to research potential treatments for this potentially deadly virus.

Working together, the companies have analyzed more than 2,000 compounds from its members’ pipelines. Approved medicines, novel therapies, antibodies and vaccines have all come under the microscope, and multiple clinical trials are well under way.

From these efforts, AbbVie has partnered with other large clinical trial networks, and other pharma companies to test the most promising drug candidates – one from each company – for severely ill, hospitalized COVID-19 patients. With the I-SPY COVID-19 trial, just one example of this work, three companies are utilizing an adaptive platform trial design intended to expedite results.

“When there’s an urgent public health threat and time is critical, testing promising drug therapies as quickly as possible is the right thing to do,” Hudson says. “Collaborations can make that process faster and more efficient.”

AbbVie also is collaborating with Harvard Medical School and other partners to study potential therapies for future disease outbreaks, with a special focus on diseases caused by coronaviruses.

2. Evening the odds: Targeting autoimmune diseases

For patients with autoimmune disorders such as Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis and atopic dermatitis (severe eczema), everyday life can be painful and frustrating.

With a robust research program around autoimmune diseases, AbbVie continues to build on its expertise by collaborating with companies with complementary research. One example is AbbVie’s recent partnership with Seattle-based Alpine Immune Sciences, which is researching autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).

In SLE, the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues of the skin, kidneys, lung and other critical organs, and also leading to symptoms such as fatigue, chronic pain and memory loss. AbbVie has been studying the mechanisms behind SLE for years in a constant effort to develop additional treatments.

“Alpine Immune Sciences has made great progress in advancing a novel biologic for autoimmune diseases to the first stage in clinical testing,” says Niels Emmerich, vice president, search & evaluation, AbbVie. “It is exciting to support Alpine’s efforts to research a potential new treatment option for SLE.”

This collaboration is an example of how AbbVie aligns its capabilities with potential partners with a shared vision and similar research specialties.

“Putting together the brightest minds with the same interests and complementary expertise ultimately can accelerate discovery and help us access next-generation science,” says Jochen Salfeld, vice president, immunology and virology discovery and distinguished research fellow, AbbVie. “For immunology patients, this can be life-changing.”

3. Global span: Providing therapies around the world

Teaming up with medical schools, hospitals, health agencies and companies around the world isn’t just good science. It helps AbbVie understand areas of unmet need. For example, AbbVie recently launched a global, strategic collaboration with Jacobio Pharmaceuticals, of Beijing, to develop promising new drugs for cancer. Jacobio is studying SHP2 inhibitors to see if they could work with the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells.

Under the agreement, AbbVie will help cover research-related expenses and take the potential drug therapies to a larger global audience.

“Our expertise in drug development and commercialization has become a powerful asset for smaller, specialized companies, including those in early-stage science,” Emmerich says. “Through our partnerships and collaborations, we can complement the strengths of our partners and set them up for success. Ultimately, that’s a win for patients, and that’s the highest standard by which we measure success.”

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Sheila Galloro
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