Tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF alpha) is cytokine which plays a number of key roles in the immune response. A number of therapies block TNF alpha, and provide efficacy in areas such as psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel diseases. Because TNF alpha plays such an active role in inflammation, literature searches on TNF alpha result in hundreds of thousands of hits.
This is an example of an adjacency, meaning a mechanism of action or a technology which may have application in a broad array of unrelated diseases and therapeutic areas. This is a frequently common problem in drug delivery, where a core technology, such as a novel oral delivery system, can have a positive therapeutic impact when combined with drugs in a breadth of therapeutic areas.
Adjacencies can be a nice problem to have, especially if the opportunities are prioritized. But how does one focus on specific therapeutic areas without sacrificing the opportunity cost of not pursuing opportunities in off-target therapeutic areas? Again, external BD&L consultancies can be tremendously helpful in several ways. First, there is the analytical exercise of identifying, assessing, and prioritizing therapeutic categories. This is a data-intensive exercise that can take time and money to execute. However, when done properly, the end result will be a clearly prioritized set of therapeutic areas and indications, which in turn help drive out-licensing and partnering focus.
Critically, this prioritized list can then be divided between internal and external business development teams. The benefit of this approach is that both teams will usually be targeting different sets of companies when divided by therapeutic area. This model, when combined with a geographic division of BD&L labor, can result in clients retaining consultancies to execute on a highly focused, efficient out-licensing exercise that is not costly (because it is so focused), and with a greater probability of transactional success.