Pipeline Strategy for Preclinical and Early Clinical Assets


In recent years, big pharma companies have begun looking outwards for innovative new therapeutics to add to their pipelines. This panel brings together speakers from various big pharma companies discussing topics such as:

  • How big pharma sources assets
  • The evaluation and investment process
  • Key factors of interest
  • How early-stage big pharma is willing to look

These panelists will shed light on the process that big pharma goes through when sourcing early-stage assets and advise startups on how they can best make a case for themselves. Panelists will also explore various trends within the therapeutics marketplace, what assets are of interest to their company, and what they think will be big in the future.


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Tim Luker, Senior Director, Emerging Technology & Innovation, Corporate Business Development, Eli Lilly & Co (Moderator)

Tim Luker is currently VP External Innovation at Eli Lilly. He leads Lilly’s external advancing innovation process within Global Corporate Business Development. This role supports Lilly’s external VC funds targeting transformational early stage research across 4 therapy areas and runs due diligence and search and evaluation initiatives.Tim is an experienced drug hunter with 17 years’ experience (>60 patents and publications). Prior to Lilly he worked at Shire, Polleo Pharma (founder) and AstraZeneca.Tim has a PhD in chemistry from the University of Southampton, carried out post-doctoral research at Universiteit Van Amsterdam and is a Prince2 qualified project manager.

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Brian Bronk, Head of Business Development, MS/Neurology, Rare Blood Disorders, Rare Diseases & Innovative Technologies, Sanofi

Brian BRONK, Ph.D. Head of Business Development, MS/Neurology, Rare Blood Disorders, Rare Diseases & Innovative Technologies Sanofi Partnering Since joining Sanofi in 2014, Brian has contributed to partnering and business development activities through a number of different roles. He started as a member of the Sunrise team, where his efforts focused on building and maintaining a portfolio of investments, including MyoKardia, Portal, Warp Drive Bio, DiCE and Thermalin. Brian joined the Sanofi Business Development team in 2017 as head of External Innovation, Rare Diseases, has assumed additional responsibilities over the past three years and has been in this current role since 2019. He and his team are responsible for working with senior leadership to define an overall portfolio strategy, with accountability for identifying and securing external opportunities that fill portfolio and business needs for each of the therapeutic areas and technology platforms. Prior to joining Sanofi, Brian was Vice President of Research and Development at Satori Pharmaceuticals, where he was a member of the Executive Leadership team and led chemical sciences and drug metabolism. He also advised several venture capital and life science groups; his efforts contributed to a number of successful financing rounds, as well as advancing R&D portfolios through key milestones. Brian started his professional career with Pfizer (1994-2008), rising to the level of Senior Director. During this tenure, his responsibilities included shaping R&D strategy across multiple platforms and therapeutic areas and delivering clinical candidates in psychiatry, neurology, infectious diseases and metabolic disorders. Brian and his teams have been involved in the discovery of more than twenty development candidates, including the launched products Draxxin™, Convenia™, Cerina™ and Slentrol™. Brian earned his bachelor’s degree from Colgate University in 1989. Following a year as a Fulbright Fellow in Dortmund, Germany, he initiated his doctoral work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, receiving his doctorate in chemistry in 1994

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Chris Church, Associate Director, Search & Evaluation, CVRM, AstraZeneca

Chris joined AstraZeneca in 2014 as a scientist, team and project leader for cardiovascular, renal and metabolic disease (CVRM) with a focus on obesity and type 2 diabetes. Chris transitioned to the AstraZeneca/MedImmune partnering and strategy team helping to coordinate in and out-licensing opportunities for CVRM together with supporting the local and international biopharma ecosystem. Since October 2019, Chris is based in the CVRM Search and Evaluation team as part of Business Development and Licensing. Prior to joining AstraZeneca, Chris obtained a First-Class degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Bath, UK and completed a PhD at the University of Oxford and MRC Mammalian Genetics Unit, Harwell, UK. This was followed by a postdoctoral position at Yale University, USA and MBA with the Open University.

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Meghana Rao, Senior Manager, New Venture Transactions, Johnson & Johnson Innovation

Meghana Rao is Senior Manager in New Venture Transactions at the Johnson & Johnson Innovation Center in California. In this role, Meghana is responsible for managing early-stage innovation opportunities through the deal process, competitive landscaping, and sourcing new opportunities for Oncology and Immunology therapeutic areas in J&J’s pharmaceutical sector. Meghana joined Johnson & Johnson Innovation from Syneos Health Consulting, where she led consulting engagements in the Scientific & Medical Advisory Group for large and mid-cap biopharma companies, across multiple therapeutic areas. With these engagements she developed pre-launch strategies, led due diligence efforts and managed multi-company REMS programs.  Meghana earned her Ph.D in Cancer Biology from Vanderbilt University, and a B.S. in Cell Biology, with a Minor in Computer Science from the University of California, San Diego.

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Khatereh Ahmadi, Head of Search and Evaluation, European BD&L, MSD

MSD is an innovative, global healthcare leader that is committed to improving health and well-being around the world. Our core product categories include diabetes, cancer, vaccines and hospital acute care. We continue to focus our research on conditions that represent some of today?s most significant health challenges ? like cancer, HIV, HPV, hepatitis C, cardio-metabolic disease, antibiotic-resistant infection and Alzheimer’s disease, and we are on the front lines in the fight against emerging global pandemics, such as ebola. We also devote extensive time and energy to increasing access to medicines and vaccines through far-reaching programs that donate and deliver our products to the people who need them. At MSD, we’re applying our global reach, financial strength and scientific excellence to do more of what we’re passionate about: improving health and improving lives.