Published: 27 July 2023


One of the things that came up when we asked you earlier this year what you wanted from the AMRC’s Festival of Partnerships was practical advice on how to overcome barriers to partnering. In response, we organised our ‘Ask an Expert’ event, which took place on Tuesday 10 July. The virtual interactive session bought together experts from the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), AMRC member Versus Arthritis, as well as AMRC supporters Mills & Reeve and LifeArc to answer questions on all things partnerships. In case you missed the event or didn’t find time to visit all the breakout rooms, this blog provides an overview of what questions came up and lessons learnt.

The event started with short talks from each organisation. We heard first from LifeArc’s Head of Charity & Patient Engagement Madhu Madhusundhan. He covered LifeArc’s role in translation of research from discovery to development and market approval, and their role in facilitating partnerships in the charity sector in areas such as IP, contracts, translation and drug discovery, including examples of successful projects.

Next, Victoria Bates, Patient Partnership Engagement Lead with Amit Aggarwal, Executive Director, Medical Affairs and Strategic Partnerships at ABPI, and Caroline Aylott, Head of Research Delivery at Versus Arthritis provided an overview of their project on improving relationships between industry and patient organisations. Finally, James Fry, Partner and Head of Life Sciences at Mills & Reeve spoke about practicalities and considerations when entering a partnership.

Once we’d been introduced to the experts, attendees split into breakout rooms for the chance to ask specific questions. In LifeArc’s breakout room, discussions focused on how to partner with LifeArc. Madhu advised that the best starting point was to contact him. In addition to the help and funding LifeArc can provide (subject to approval by their board), Madhu highlighted the role the charity often plays in facilitating introductions to other organisations, be it other charities, industry or others, and bringing them into partnerships.

In Mills & Reeve’s room, James spoke to attendees about managing risk in the context of collaborations, particularly in the context of international research collaborations. He answered questions on managing specific risks around transferring samples, transferring data, especially across borders. A number of discussions also focused on intellectual property (IP) and IP treatment, within the context of research collaborations in particular. Questions around managing risk were raised frequently and a conversation was had around sense checking standard approaches when it comes to partnership agreements, particularly within a charitable legal context.

Finally, in Versus Arthritis and ABPI’s room, the conversation covered topics such as how to ensure a partnership is mutually beneficial, the issue of independence when working with pharma and the importance of transparency. The benefits of ongoing communication between sectors, both during and outside of specific projects was also discussed. Another question raised was how to turn one-off interactions into longer-lasting partnerships and the.g. IP, exit clauses, clinical trial control) that should to be clearly set out at the start.

We hope all those that attended found the event useful. If you weren’t able to, but want to catch up on some of the content discussed, take a look at the Improving Relationships between Industry and Patient Organisations report that Versus Arthritis and ABPI collaborated on and discussed at the event. Mills & Reeve are also offering AMRC members monthly free online sessions throughout the Festival, around a number of key areas that affect you, your charity and your partnerships.