What does it take to innovate in the life sciences – and what is the role of open innovation, crowdsourcing, and partnerships in this field? In this interview, Kemal Malik, responsible for innovation at Bayer, shares his insights why multinational companies, startups and academia should join forces to meet the health needs of humans, animals, and plants now and in future.
A major part of our business is the development of new molecules for use in innovative products and solutions to improve the health of humans, animals and plants. Their active ingredients are designed to influence the biochemical processes in living organisms. As different as people, animals and plants might seem common rules govern the underlying mechanisms in all life forms. They serve, for example, as the basis for research in the area of DNA, like genome editing.
Since we started our collaboration activities across the various life science areas, we experienced many opportunities for interdisciplinary research: The sharing of scientific know-how and common technology platforms, such as substance libraries and high throughput screening, computational methods, metabolomics, protein engineering, and, of course, the chemical and biological synthesis of active ingredients, delivers advantages both in creativity and in synergies.
Today, it is no longer possible for one organization to dive deep into all areas of life science based innovation, we need partnerships and networks to explore the potential of technologies and bring ideas to life. This has two main reasons: First, the amount of scientific knowledge is growing fast – and it becomes more and more specialized, either from the science background or the customer target group. Second, the art of fostering an innovation-friendly mind-set: Creativity has other rules than traditional hierarchical systems. An organization needs to improve its ability to create space for this – to come up with out-of-the box ideas and recognize the potential of other people’s unconventional ideas.
We build on our own skills in R&D, leverage our expertise, be inspired by new, entrepreneurial forms of working – but also accept the limits of what we can do on our own. We are aiming to contribute our strengths to successful partnerships and want to grow our collaboration skills: It’s an art form and it’s our ambition to become very good at it.
We are part of the global innovation network: we invite partners from academic research institutes, startups and companies to join us, contribute to scientific discussion and drive fundamental research together.
Our open innovation programs help startups validate their ideas, e. g. drug targets, novel approaches in crop protection and animal health or digital health solutions. The initiatives offer financial support, but also coworking facilities and mentoring, access to our R&D infrastructure and networking opportunities. Promising partnerships were already born from these initiatives. Additionally, we invest in venture funds and the Bayer Life Science Center.
It’s the future. It combines the best of two worlds: innovation culture, flexibility and specialization of a startup and the established infrastructure, know-how and experience of a global company, which helps develop a great idea into a ready-to-launch product that is actually available to a customer. For me, the general question in health care is how we can utilize new technologies and platforms to move forward in innovation.
There were two revolutions in the past. One were small molecules. The next were large molecules. The third one which is coming or we are on the edge on are cell based therapies. For the understanding of that area we need a key technology platform in the next years. Innovation is easier now then 20 or 30 years ago – if you join the right forces. Our understanding of disease biology and the need to share information is much greater now. So, the focus around innovation is not limited to our company, but it´s the whole world.
In many ways I have the best and easiest job in the company because anyone is interested in innovation. Everybody knows that this is the sustainable way for the company to grow. And we have external pressure. We have to feed the world. We still have medical needs. We as a life science company have responsibility to contribute to solving these challenges.
Our overall goal is a true partnership which allows both sides to develop and prosper. We will be a committed partner for the entire duration of our collaboration with you.
We are big enough to deliver, but passionate enough to care about every project! We stand by our commitments and treat our partners with respect.
We are flexible and strive for tailored solutions that will fit both parties’ expectations. We’ll give you a direct contact to help solve any questions that may arise.
Bayer joins forces with companies, startups, and academia to advance promising compounds – small molecules and biological compounds – from pre-clinical stages to marketed products. We also in-license specific discovery and platform technologies to support our own innovative research. Comprehensive alliances with research institutes whose expertise complements our own are also welcomed.
To advance fundamental life-science research we engage in pre-competitive collaboration with partners from academia and industry, patient organizations and regulatory authorities. For instance we actively contribute to the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) and the Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC).
By investing in venture funds we support up-and-coming companies in life sciences. We rely on partners like Versant Ventures, Flagship Ventures and the High Tech Gründerfonds with in-depth expertise and an excellent track record.
The Bayer Lifescience Center (BLSC) is a new venturing unit within Bayer that focuses entirely on the development of fundamental breakthrough innovation for humans, animals, and plants by creating a platform that allows technology combination and know-how amplification. Through a network of partnerships BLSC will tackle fundamental challenges to cure human and animal diseases as well as to advance crop protection.