This month Ivan Baines Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Board Member of the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG) in Germany, shared his thoughts and advice about the evolution of the Life Sciences sector, collaborations and BioFIT’s contribution to this ecosystem.

  • Ivan, you are Chief Operating Officer of the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, and have served on numerous biotech boards. How do you believe that public/private collaborations have changed the course of Life Sciences industry?

Public / private partnerships have impacted the Life Sciences industry in two important ways. Firstly, they typically have a specific and valuable goal. The constraints of the industry of having the correct approach for a successful outcome means that the experimental design, its execution and data interpretation are important ‘reality checks’ about the performance of fundamental explorative research. Secondly, the creative design of explorative research provides opportunities for innovation that would be considered too ‘extravagant’ by industry to pursue but are nevertheless essential drivers of innovation and discovery.

  • How do you see the Life Sciences sector in the next 10 years? Which evolutions do you think will take place? What progression would you like to see?

Research and development in the Life Sciences sector is increasing in complexity as more comprehensive technologies are developed, which allows for completeness. Technologies are now often assembled into pipelines (CRISPR/Cas9 is a good example) that generate very large data sets that are increasingly difficult to analyse. I believe the Life Sciences sector will evolve to meet this challenge by a larger propensity of public/private partnerships, more open innovation to share research tools (which is very important) and other networks to address the complex areas of expertise, technology and funding.

  • Do you believe that cross-sector collaborations will drive the future of Life Sciences?

Absolutely

  • What regulation would you like to change or introduce in order to improve industry/academia collaborations and advance innovation in Life Sciences?

Collaboration between industry and academia may be hampered by the lack of appropriate commercial and legal benchmarking by the academic partners for a potential partnership. Likewise, there are lessons to be learned by industry regarding certain aspects of corporate culture that are challenging for academia to embrace. A good forum for dialogue between academia and industry is essential in order to achieve common understanding and language.

 

  • What would be your advice to researchers who would like to establish collaborations in the Life Sciences industry?

My advice would be to build on real scientific opportunities, never to contrive a relationship simply to receive funding or for the on-paper value of having a collaboration with a specific partner. The most important ingredients in a collaboration are trust and enthusiasm, and these are only achieved over time with a mutual commitment to performing high quality research.

 

  • You attended BioFIT  What were your favorite events and why?

The plenary was good. I also enjoyed the session ‘Best practices in collaborative research’, which provided an excellent overview of the recent enthusiasm of industry to find the best structures to nurture partnering with academia.