Three Pillars for the Foundation of a Pharma Merger

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By Dr. Adam Kaplin, M.D., Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer, MyMD Pharmaceuticals

Earlier this year, MyMD Pharmaceuticals (MyMD) completed a business combination with Akers BioSciences (Akers); enabling access to public capital markets, along with additional resources and expertise. The goal of the combination was to elevate MyMD to attract top talent and key supporters and to pave the path for our drug candidates to get to market within the aging, immunometabolic regulation and TNF-α inhibition therapeutic areas. Now that the merger is months behind us, we took note of lessons learned along the way that helped shepherd us through the process, seamlessly. Of these lessons, three themes emerged: 1) prepare for a partnership, 2) deliver consistent and clear communication, and 3) keep our eyes on the “why.”

Prepare for a Partnership

It is important that both partners clearly see the benefit of the combination, and ultimately compliment each other’s pipeline, vision and culture. Since the inception of MyMD in 2014, we have continued to grow our team in both numbers and talent; drafting researchers from nationally-recognized institutions who are currently working on papers, studies and consulting around the development of our lead candidate MYMD-1, and Supera-CBD. When we announced the intention to merge with Akers in November 2020, we had already made significant headway, allowing us to point to progress around our pipeline, and upcoming milestones. 

Deliver Consistent and Clear Communication

Consistent communication throughout any business combination is critical. We worked closely with Akers on all external material to ensure all voices, questions and concerns were heard, and could be implemented into our messaging, if appropriate. Communication materials included company newsletters to external stakeholders, press releases distributed on wire services, and interviews with select media members. These channels enabled access for all who were interested in gaining intel around what was coming next, where to locate information and when more would be available. 

In the same vein, internal communication also remained a top priority throughout the process. Internal meetings with each party involved with the process were held regularly to provide line of sight into the strategy and end goal. The collective meetings positioned all parties to remain in lockstep with the next steps and deliverables, and provided the opportunity to collect insights from seasoned experts (marketing, legal, communications, etc.) to guide best practices along the way. We believe in having the best “players” on our team when it comes to research and development, and take the same approach when it comes to business strategy and execution.  

Keep Your Eye on the “Why”

The final– and perhaps most important- theme in a successful business combination is reminding all members involved to keep their eyes on the “why,” behind the decision. Yes, we wanted a strong business team, and yes, we desire additional support to bring MYMD-1 and Supera-CBD to market–but why? Because, both MYMD-1 and Supera-CBD address unmet needs in a myriad of therapeutic areas, including depression in multiple sclerosis; immune-mediated depression due to COVID-19; sarcopenia; and rheumatoid arthritis, among others.

The “why” is the same for all members at the end of the day, but the drive behind it can vary by individual. I practiced psychiatry at a major medical school, and advised on the extremely specific cases of people who lived with depression and multiple sclerosis (MS). I see tremendous potential for MYMD-1 when it comes to the treatment of MS, and its ability to remove the risk that current drugs pose for neurotoxicity, among other alarming side effects. 

The bottom line

While the partners, communication means, and the “why” will differ based on each business combination, these three themes should remain at the forefront of discussions.

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