This 10,000 Employee French Pharma is Finally Entering the Biotech Partnership Race

pierre fabre building

Biotech is getting more and more about partnering rather than doing everything alone. Some conservative Pharmas, which worked to more of a ‘Silo model’, are now branching out in a more open approach; the last one being the Pharma company from the south-west of France Pierre Fabre.

The company, named after its iconic founder Pierre Fabre, has been very successful since its creation in 1962. It grew into a 10,000 employee mass, which last year made with 2.1 billion euros in revenue.

But Pierre Fabre well illustrates how the ‘Silo model’ can be a limitation in Biotech. Most of its employees are based in the south-west of France (Castres and Toulouse), so the HQ tries to do the bulk of the work on its own. It’s certainly not as international as its French rival Servier (who conducts 90% of sales abroad), and Fabre’s pipeline is mainly reliant on its own internal research.

The ‘Silo Model’ (Credit: Frits Ahlefeldt / Hiking Artist)

Shifting from the silo model to an open model is therefore a global trend in the entire industry, and Biotech is becoming increasingly complex and interdisciplinary. Indeed, the trend pressure and scaling up is making solo-work more difficult to maintain, as further up the ranks partnerships become mandatory.

This pressure certainly in part explains the massive firing rounds of employees from the big Pharmas around the World, and the opening/reinforcement of an “External R&D department” (what a nice name).

Pierre Fabre is finally moving in this direction too. I had a discussion with a manager from the business development department telling me more about their strategy, but I haven’t really seen any results yet.

Now they’ve confirmed – Pierre Fabre announced that it has signed a $455M (€427M) oncology deal with Colorado-based Array Biopharma.

One of Colorado’s beautiful landscapes… (CC: MaxGag)

The deal involves two late-stage novel oncology small molecules, binimetinib and encorafenib. Binimetinib, a MEK inhibitor, and encorafenib, a BRAF inhibitor, are currently advancing in three global Phase III trials for melanoma and ovarian cancer. The results of one of the Phase III are expected by the end of 2015.

One surprising fact about Array Biopharma is that Novartis walked away from some of their mutual projects, even though it is focusing more and more on oncology (as shown by the vaccine/oncology deal with GSK).

Biotech/Pharma is now more global and open than ever before, and this partnership illustrates it perfectly. This deal could bring Pierre Fabre quick and significative revenues increase if the Phase III results are positive.

Artwork (Hiking Artist) Courtesy of Frits Ahlefeldt @
Explore other topics: CancerFrancePierre Fabre

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