Indication Prioritization
Selecting Candidates for Clinical Development: Three Biotech Company Scenarios
In each scenario below, companies begin with a promising set of pre-clinical candidates, only one of which can be developed as the lead clinical-stage program. Each company hopes to license their lead at an attractive value to a quality partner to fueling their next stage of pipeline development.

As transactions are sensitive strategic processes, names of companies and executives in all MotionHall case studies are anonymized.

These scenarios represent:

  • • Early best practice in IP portfolio management by applying a business development lens to program selection (Scenario 1: Willow Leaf Biotech).
  • • Best practice for working with a pipeline where business development realities including attractiveness to partners are considered only directly in advance of a deal cycle (Scenario 2: Maple Leaf Therapeutics).
  • • Common mistakes in IP portfolio and deal cycle management that end poorly for companies and patients (Scenario 3: Seed Therapeutics).

Scenario 1: Leveraging Licensing and M&A Market Clarity to Select Candidates for Clinical Development

Willow Leaf Biotech has ten promising pre-clinical stage drug candidates. From their current vantage point, each appears to be equally validated in their science, and the costs are similar for each to develop through clinical trials.

Willow Leaf’s CEO and board look to CBO Maria to help them come to a decision. Maria needs to recommend the most attractive candidates for development from a business development and licensing lens, candidates that should transact both on the right timeline and at an attractive value for Willow Leaf Biotech. The financial plan for the company assumes that licensing revenues will provide non-dilutive financing for the next set of candidates for clinical development.

Maria uses MotionHall’s Platform tools, including OutMatch, Deal Comparables and Competitive Landscape Evaluation to examine the business development potential of each candidate program. She also explores the M&A landscape for Willow Leaf to better understand how candidate prioritization will impact company attractiveness to potential acquirers in such a scenario. Maria returns to the CEO and board with her findings.

“I’ve selected the two candidate programs which look best to transact both on the timeline we want and the value we need to fund a second candidate following on,” shared Maria. “Of those two, one is clearly preferable in an M&A scenario. To maximize our optionality and reduce our exposure to risk we should invest in the candidate that’s attractive to both the partnering market and Willow Leaf’s M&A prospects.”

The board agrees with Maria and the Willow Leaf team pursues this candidate as their new lead asset.

Using the MotionHall Method, Model and Platform, Maria was able to recommend a strategy for Willow Leaf Biotech that positions them best to succeed now and in the future.

Scenario 2: Maple Leaf Therapeutics Develops Without Considering Their Future Partners, and their CBO Succeeds

Maple Leaf Therapeutics has contracted CBO Shaheed to transact their lead asset. He’s learned that the company, like Willow Leaf Bio, started with ten equally promising pre-clinical candidates. Maple Leaf Therapeutics selection process for a lead program was to choose the program they were most interested in scientifically. Shaheed has been hired to find partners for this asset currently at Phase 2.

It’s the CBOs Responsibility to Know the Market for the Deal

As one of his first steps at the company, Shaheed accesses the MotionHall Platform to examine the landscape of prospective partners, deal comparables and the competitive landscape for Maple Leaf’s lead program. Shaheed isn’t impressed by the results but appreciates their value - the landscape of potential partners is limited and looks challenging, with no obvious ideal partners.

Meanwhile, the CEO and board at Maple Leaf have enormous expectations for the project they’ve put so much time and money into. They don’t take the news well and pressure Shaheed to find a way to meet their expectations.

Shaheed works carefully with the market for Maple Leaf’s lead asset, drawing support from MotionHall’s Strategy Consulting team to accelerate his market development plan. Carefully and with discipline, Shaheed is able to build a campaign to enter and educate prospective partner organizations on the Maple Leaf opportunity.

He eventually drives up deal competition to get reasonable value on the transaction with favorable royalties, even though the CEO expected more upfront. Maple Leaf’s CEO later acknowledges that the asset was a niche fit, and not as attractive to the broader partnering market as the team had hoped. She thanks Shaheed for getting a tough deal over the finish line.

Scenario 3: The Highest Cost of Inexperience and Poor Practice in Pipeline Development is to Patients

In our last scenario, we look at Seed Therapeutics who also has ten scientifically interesting pre-clinical candidates and can’t decide which to prioritize between them based on scientific merits or interest. After a vote, the team commits to spending several years and substantial capital to develop its new lead asset.

Mark, Seed’s CBO, assumes the scientific merit and important indication of the lead asset will make it an attractive prospect to the partnering market. Mark is aggressive about reaching out to his network, hoping that the relationships he’s honed with the industry’s larger players earlier in his career will be sufficient to drive a transaction forward. However, the feedback from the market is that Mark’s Phase 2 asset needs more data to be attractive to pharma. Nobody is moving, but Seed Therapeutics needs new capital to continue.

Facing Limited Runway, and Disinterested Markets for both Partnership and Investment

Seed Therapeutic’s team redoubles their efforts to drive outreach, becoming increasingly opportunistic. They attend conferences hoping to meet compatible licensing partners or investors. Through their efforts, they educate a lot of potential buyers about their assets only to hear numerous reasons why it’s not a good fit. Many say there's not enough data, while others provide no response at all.

With runway increasingly limited, this negative feedback alarms the CEO and board. They consider bringing on more financing to develop the asset further. One board member suggests preparing to commercialize the asset in-house. Another points out how expensive a salesforce is and that sufficient venture funding will be difficult to obtain.

Turning to Risk-Based M&A as a Last Resort Effort

Seed Therapeutics is unable to invest in their remaining pipeline candidates since they are nearly out of capital. To cut costs, they replace Mark, Seed’s CBO, with several risk-based consultants who promise to help find a partner for their asset. Seed’s pipeline of potentially life-changing drugs goes unexplored. Meanwhile, with limited capital remaining to support operations, the board begins to wind down the team and consider if an underwhelming M&A scenario is the best path forward from here.