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Rapid Translation of Therapeutic Discoveries into the Clinic through Purposeful Collaboration

How academia and biotech can team up to bring impactful new drug therapies to patients faster

Few healthcare endeavors are more daunting or resource intensive than the development of a new drug therapy. On average, it takes 10 to 12 years and millions of dollars for a new drug to be developed and approved for prescription. But resourceful, early-stage biotech companies are finding that both the drug development timeline and price tag can be significantly reduced through purposeful collaboration with like-minded partners. Collaboration isn’t just a smart business move; in today’s climate, it is imperative for business survival. Biotech bankruptcies hit a 10-year peak in 2023, and companies of all sizes are increasingly aware of the impact that collaborative partnering has to advance drug development despite manufacturing and financial challenges. 

Leveraging a collaborative partnership model 

From research and development, clinical trials and regulatory approvals to commercialization, collaboration can be essential to propelling a potential new drug therapy to the next stage in its evolution. By partnering with healthcare, governmental, academic, and other stakeholders to address scientific and technological challenges, early-stage biotech companies can create efficiencies in R&D and manufacturing that lower costs and accelerate the pace of innovation and growth. In a sector where experienced talent, fully equipped research and development lab space, and specialized manufacturing facilities come at a premium, independently securing these resources can be an unrealistic quest for many small and medium-sized companies. Forging strategic relationships with organizations that share an overarching mission to improve patient outcomes is often the answer. Collaboration can help mitigate risk through shared investment. In recent years, collaboration in the world of biopharma has increased, while mergers and acquisitions have decreased, as collaborative partnerships offer a safer option in a volatile financial market. The right partners create synergies that, most importantly, accelerate access to much-needed therapeutic solutions for patients. 

The importance of aligning goals

Collaborations are not without risk; a considerable number of biopharmaceutical partnerships fail for reasons unrelated to the viability of the original concept. A common reason for collaboration failures is a misalignment of goals. Time and effort spent up front to ensure the alignment of shared goals and the understanding of roles and responsibilities can save countless hours and dollars on the back end. Once a collaboration is initiated, success depends on working together seamlessly toward both short and long-term goals. With trust and transparent communication as the cornerstones, all individuals involved must be aligned on timelines, responsibilities, and approach. Actively seeking input from all stakeholders is key to developing and staying on target. For instance, in drug development, seeking input from clinicians who will ultimately prescribe and administer the drug during patient care often uncovers beneficial insights that could affect several aspects of the drug’s development. Having access to diversity of skill, experience, and perspective among team members fuels valuable discussions that can lead to efficiencies throughout the development process. Working as one team with a singular goal of getting a potentially impactful drug therapy into the clinical setting — and on the path to commercialization — is essential to any successful drug development project. 

The power of proximity

While casting a wide geographic net, with a potentially global reach, has its place in many biotech collaborations, proximity plays a pivotal role in encouraging and facilitating collaboration and enabling productive teamwork. The effectiveness of collaboration is magnified when participating partners operate in close proximity.

In Houston for example, academic institutions, medical facilities, and biotech companies interact seamlessly to reach clinical proof of concept and become positioned for commercialization by fostering collaborations that integrate Houston’s scientific, engineering, clinical, and product development ecosystems. These institutions work together from incubator to drug approval, providing access to a concentrated pool of experienced industry experts and state-of-the-art facilities. By removing the capital investments of cleanroom facilities, lab equipment, development and analytics resources, and internal manufacturing and materials management personnel, early-stage biotech companies can focus on the science behind bringing potentially life-improving and life-extending new drugs to patients who will benefit from them. 

Contributing to the emergence of Houston as a biotech hub is how neighboring academic institutions, medical centers, and a world renowned cancer research center facilitate collaboration through their expert networks of researchers and robust clinical trial infrastructure to bring novel, groundbreaking therapies closer to patients. Local biotech companies have unprecedented access to patients and patient feedback, scientists, engineers, clinicians, and other medical professionals. With academic, medical, and manufacturing institutions uniquely positioned within walking distance, Houston is equipped to address the challenges that early-stage biotech companies face in the development of therapeutics. This convergence of medical expertise and top-tier facilities is also happening in other areas across the country, creating an innovation-rich environment that supports a multitude of projects and offers opportunities for collaboration that will ultimately lead to successful drug development stories.      


Biopharmaceutical collaborations are fueling biomedical research and development across the care continuum. Collaboration between diverse organizations has emerged as an indispensable approach to navigating the complexities of drug development. Combining diverse expertise, technological and manufacturing capabilities, and research insights plays a vital role in accelerating drug development timelines and expediting the time to market for potentially lifesaving medicines. While the sustainable benefits of collaboration for all participants are tangible, collaboration within the pharmaceutical and biotech sectors is first and foremost driven by a profound sense of purpose and collective dedication to advancing patient-centric care.

Photo: Dmitrii_Guzhanin, Getty Images

Jason Bock, Ph.D., co-founder and CEO of CTMC, a joint venture between Resilience + MD Anderson Cancer Center, is an accomplished leader with 20+ years of innovative biologics development and commercialization experience. Based in Houston, TX, CTMC was conceived to accelerate patient access to impactful cell therapies by bridging cell therapy development and manufacturing with MD Anderson’s clinical trial capabilities. Dr. Bock previously held leadership positions at MD Anderson, Teva Pharmaceuticals, CoGenesys, and Human Genome Sciences. Dr. Bock earned a B.S. in Biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Physiology from the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Paul K. Wotton, Ph.D. is the Executive Director of the Rice Biotech Launch Pad, a Houston-based accelerator focused on expediting the translation of Rice University’s health and medical technology discoveries into cures. He leverages his significant experience spanning scientific research, product development and corporate growth gained over a thirty-year career. Dr. Wotton serves on the Board of Directors of Vericel Corporation (NASDAQ: VCEL), Cynata Therapeutics (ASC: CYP), Kytopen (Chairman), Combined Therapeutics and is a Co-Founder and Director of Avenge Bio, a clinical stage biotechnology company. Dr. Wotton was President and CEO of Ocata Therapeutics (NASDAQ: OCAT) until its acquisition by AstellasPharma in 2016.

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