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Interview With David Piacquad, SVP, Business Development

What does business development mean at Amgen?

Business Development means different things in different industries—and at different companies. At Amgen, business development focuses on bringing external innovation into the corporation. We do this in a number of ways, especially through acquisitions and licensing agreements that include investigational medicines in specific therapeutic areas as well as discovery research capabilities and delivery system technologies. Amgen Business Development also operates Amgen Ventures, a fund focused on early-stage innovation, and out-licensing efforts.  

How seriously does Amgen take innovations not created inside the company?

We really believe that to be successful going forward you have to find the best science, the best innovation, wherever it may reside. If you look at our late-stage pipeline today, it’s nicely balanced. Roughly half the molecules have come from outside through acquisitions and licensing deals, and half have come from internal research at Amgen. This should say something about how we source innovation at Amgen—and the importance we place on building relationships outside our own walls.

Can you explain the recent changes to Amgen Business Development?

For many years, Amgen had two business development groups—one in finance and one in R&D. What we heard as we talked to people on the outside is that this created some confusion. So in 2014, we combined the two organizations. We’re now able to speak with one unified voice to potential partners. Our objective is for people to find Amgen a much easier organization to work with than they have in the past. It has been very exciting to re-introduce ourselves to potential partners and meet some exciting new startups.

When it comes to global reach, what does Amgen have to offer a small biopharma?

One of the great challenges and opportunities for an emerging biotech company is how you get out of what I like to call "the biotech trap." The biotech trap is that young biotech companies have a tendency to cut deals to out-license their international rights. It’s understandable as it’s a way to finance a corporation. And yet, it leads you into a trap. The trap is that when you have a big new product ready to launch, you can’t take it internationally because you never built the infrastructure. And when you have opportunity outside the US, you can’t make a pitch for it because you don’t have the capabilities embedded. To some extent, this was a challenge for Amgen early on.

Around 2010, however, we decided to get out of this trap by partnering internationally, ahead of our maturing pipeline, to really start building aggressively, about five years in advance of the launch of products. We didn’t just think about commercial capabilities but also R&D and manufacturing as well because, as those who have operated internationally know, you can’t operate effectively unless you do this. You have to have a real presence on the ground, meaning that you’re doing clinical trials in R&D and doing manufacturing regionally.

So we’ve worked very hard to get out of this trap. This includes doing an acquisition in Brazil, buying back rights to our distributor in Brazil, buying a company in Turkey that gave us access to the Middle East (an attractive market), buying back one of our legacy products in 100 markets, and doing two joint ventures—one in Japan and one in China—that will eventually allow us to step into two up-and-running businesses. We have pulled a number of different levers to allow us to expand globally, and our feeling is that we’ve got an exciting future. So we’ve really created a global launch pad for our upcoming products—for those that come from inside Amgen and for those that will come from future partnerships.

David A. Piacquad—SVP, Business Development

David A. Piacquad has been in the biopharmaceuticals business for more than 30 years. Piacquad joined Amgen in 2010 and was named senior vice president, Business Development, in March 2014. He is responsible for business development across Amgen and leads a new organization that combines the previously separate Corporate Development and External Research & Development groups. Prior to this role, Piacquad served as vice president, Strategy & Corporate Development, responsible for mergers and acquisitions, inbound and outbound Licensing, Amgen Ventures and Corporate Alliance Management.

Prior to Amgen, Piacquad was senior vice president, Business Development & Licensing at Schering-Plough Corporation. Before joining Schering-Plough, Piacquad spent more than 20 years at Johnson & Johnson, where he held a series of leadership roles in finance and business development.

Piacquad holds a BA degree from Colgate University and an MBA from the Wharton School.