pharmaceutical lab 311.
(photo credit: Judy Siegel-Itzkovich)
Among the largest and most veteran pharmaceutical companies, Bristol-Myers
Squibb Inc. is one of least well-known in Israel. Until recently, it did not have
any activity in Israel, and it does not have any significant development
agreements with an Israeli company. But behind the scenes, it has been active in
Israel for many years and is now looking to expand its operations.
have decided to expand our activity in Israel following the launching of Yervoy,
a drug that treats melanoma,” Rachel Humphrey, a Bristol-Myers Squibb vice
president responsible for the development of Yervoy, told Globes. “We are
cooperating with Israeli specialists, who have given us clinical and scientific
information and valuable insights. We are currently building a relationship
surrounding the drug.”
Bristol-Myers Squibb is a 150-year-old US
company. Legend says that Edward Robinson Squibb, who was a surgeon in
the US Navy, was disenchanted with the poor quality of medicines used on US
military vessels and dumped them all in the ocean. In 1858 he started his own
pharmaceuticals manufacturing business in New York.
At the same time,
William Bristol and John Ripley Myers invested in a failing pharmaceutical
company in New York and made their first fortune by developing salt laxatives
and antibacterial toothpaste. A few years later, the three companies merged
together to become Bristol- Myers Squibb.
The company was involved in
various medical fields for years. It recently became more focused and narrowed
its activity to medical issues and sold all non-medical company
“Our business model integrates life sciences and
pharmaceuticals,” Humphrey said. “We are trying to be as quick and innovative as
a start-up. We are strengthening our culture of innovation without giving up the
organization’s capability. Recently this has begun to pay
Bristol-Myers Squibb launched four new drugs in 2011, an impressive
number even for big Pharma.
“Our company, like others in the market, has
become stricter in the way it manages the acquisitions budget and its support of
initial science,” Ellen Lubman, director of Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Strategic
Transactions Group, told Globes. “Today, Bristol-Myers Squibb are mostly
acquiring companies that complement our portfolio.”
Lubman is concerned
about the diminishing number of new companies.
“It is still the role of
venture-capital firms to initiate new projects,” she said. “We, the
pharmaceutical companies and Bristol-Myers Squibb in particular, take on
products only after it is clear how our large-scale funding can help them
progress. This usually happens during the regulatory and marketing
“We are developing centers of excellence that comprise groups of
researchers from various universities whom we support,” Humphrey said. “We will
be publicly announcing this in the next few months.”Where will the
funding for the small companies come from if not from large organizations like
Bristol- Myers Squibb?
Lubman: “I see a macroeconomic solution, which is not
unique in our industry. It is difficult to bring about innovation when you are
focusing on acquisitions. Therefore the IPOs must return. The moment
capital markets reopen, the chances for exits will be higher, and more venture
capital will become available.”
Some people claim that pharmaceutical
companies don’t know how to develop drugs anymore and that they should focus on
marketing and funding.
Humphrey: “I do not see any innovation crisis in
Bristol- Myers Squibb. We have internal innovation, and there is no way we would
give this up.”
Lubman: “Investors in pharmaceuticals are always
interested in extreme scenarios. Pharmaceutical companies need to carry out
clinical trials and to market their drugs, because they do this better than
Bristol-Myers Squibb’s careful approach toward
acquisitions might disappoint anyone who believed that when venture-capital
funding decreased, pharmaceutical companies would begin investing in start-ups,
so that there would be companies worth acquiring later.
“We would be
happy to present our investors with quality companies,” Lubman said. “We have
done this for Israeli companies before. We are not able to assist with funding
during the initial stages, but we can help by giving direction and
Lubman recently participated in a conference for medical
innovation at Tel Aviv University’s Lahav Executive Education Program, led by
DFJ Tamir Fishman Ventures managing partner Benny Zeevi, in an effort to guide