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    How success in glaucoma innovation must come from within

    San Francisco—Companies that want to sell glaucoma products must start by building their own scientific expertise, said David E.I. Pyott, CBE, who was Allergan’s chief executive officer (CEO) and chairman of its board of directors from 1998 to 2015.

    They “should be based on deep knowledge of the basic science and also pharmaceutical formulations, particularly in ophthalmology and dermatology,” said Pyott at the Glaucoma 360 New Horizons Forum.

    Low interest rates have tempted some medical companies to focus on buying technologies from other patent holders.David E.I. Pyott, CBE. Courtesy of Trish Tunney

    But “the supposition that you can innovate purely by acquisition is highly questionable,” Pyott said. “Most acquisitions fail.”

    Instead, successful companies must understand what patients really need, and how to measure whether medications or devices are meeting those needs, he said.

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    That does not mean working in isolation. Successful medical companies will also develop relationships with key investigators and practicing physicians, he added.

    “Frankly, that’s the only way you run the checks that you’re really embarking on an endeavor that has a chance of really making a difference and being successful,” he said.

    For many years during Pyott’s tenure, Allergan spent “double digits as a percentage of sales,” on research and development, Pyott said.

    More: Three companies on the “Horizon” with glaucoma drugs

    Its expertise led to the development of therapies, such as brimonidine tartrate/timolol maleate ophthalmic solution (Alphagan); brimonidine tartrate/timolol maleate ophthalmic solution (Combigan); bimatoprost ophthalmic solution (Lumigan); and bimatoprost and timolol maleate (Ganfort).

    Allergan released some of these products with successively lower concentrations of active ingredients.

    “We were achieving similar effectiveness because we understood the importance of how the drop actually got to the right tissues in the eye,” he said.

    More: Glaucoma ‘tsunami’ bearing down on how EyeMDs will practice medicine

    Once a company has developed internal expertise, it can successful license technologies from other patent holders, or even buy other companies, Pyott said.

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