Flagship woos Novartis top dealmaker Prakash Raman in move to get the BD ball rolling early
Flagship Pioneering likes to be ahead of its times — so far ahead, perhaps, that it is often challenging to find partners for their startups while the scientific scaffolding is underway. But Prakash Raman is here to change that.
Raman, who most recently headed up business development at the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, became Flagship’s first chief business development officer two weeks ago. By acting as a “central resource” for the 100 companies in the venture fund’s portfolio, he hopes to help entrepreneurs and management teams strategize about dealmaking to capture value beyond the near-term validation of their platform technologies, Raman told Endpoints News.
“The idea now with me in this role is to help socialize these companies early with potential partners, get the discussion and dialogue going,” he said.
For now, Raman is a one-man-band dividing his time between multiple biotechs who are each exploring the best way forward, though he is open to recruiting associates as needed. Some of the more mature ventures already have their own BD units, while others would be working on building one with his help.
It’s early days and he’s still discussing with Flagship CEO Noubar Afeyan which projects to prioritize, but in general, he envisions broad collaborative type deals where startups can pitch their platforms for a particular application of interest to a bigger partner.
Having worked his way from the bench (he was trained as a medicinal chemist) to the highest level of Big Pharma, Raman said for deals to work, relationships matter.
“A lot of successful deals [happen] when there is a champion within the larger partner company and my goal is to sort of help our companies to figure out who that is, to navigate those more complex relationships in a highly matrixed large organization,” he said.
Raman is not in a hurry to put a numerical goal on deals. Flagship has made sure its companies have access to enough cash to spend a collective $1.2 billion on R&D, spanning 40 clinical and over 120 preclinical programs. Rather, expect things like an annual CBO conference for Flagship-backed biotechs to exchange best practices and experience working with partners.
It’s all part of Flagship’s evolution from a typical venture fund — if it has ever been one — to an umbrella organization that offers help and support on core functional expertise in several areas.
“BD is just one of them,” Raman noted.