Four Questions with Devang Bhuva: Being a Partner of Choice

Stories@Gilead - July 29, 2020

Devang Bhuva, Gilead’s Senior Vice President of Corporate Development, joined Gilead in April, amid a busy season of dealmaking for Gilead. In his first few months on the job, he worked with the company’s corporate development team to complete a series of transactions – many of which had been years in the making – to help Gilead add to the company’s innovative portfolio of investigational treatments in immuno-oncology.

We connected with Devang about what brought him to Gilead, the recent string of oncology deals and what’s next for Gilead.

Q: Gilead has been very active in corporate development this year, even amid a global pandemic. Tell us about the recent immuno-oncology deals that the company has signed.
Most recently, we signed an agreement with Tizona Therapeutics, a privately held company based in South San Francisco developing first-in-class immuno-oncology treatments. The agreement is a “staged” acquisition – meaning we took a 49.9 percent equity interest in the company now and have the option to acquire the rest of the company in the future for a predetermined price. It is the sixth transaction we’ve announced this year in the field, as we seek to build out our presence in immuno-oncology in line with our stated corporate strategy.

Each of these six deals – which include agreements with Tizona, Pionyr Immunotherapeutics, Arcus Biosciences, oNKo-innate and Tenebio, and the acquisition of Forty Seven – bring complementary scientific approaches within the field of immuno-oncology to Gilead and Kite. These transactions add to the work we are doing internally to develop a differentiated immuno-oncology portfolio. Together, this set of deals provides us with access to assets spanning from preclinical stages to late-clinical stages, with a view to enhance both mid- and long-term growth. These transactions together are a great step forward in creating a robust oncology pipeline.

Q: One of the three ambitions laid out through Gilead’s corporate strategy is being the biotech partner of choice. What does that mean?
Being a partner of choice means that we are able to be flexible, think creatively and structure agreements that are deeply beneficial to both sides. Being able to do so ensures that we have access to the best external innovation – and that we are agile enough to execute on a range of deal types that are attractive to different types of partners. The series of immuno-oncology deals this year really demonstrates that range and flexibility.

Tizona and Pionyr were staged acquisitions, Forty Seven was a traditional acquisition and Arcus is set up as a long-term, broad-based collaboration, similar to our agreement with Galapagos. oNKo-innate and Teneobio are both research collaborations. This range helps Gilead differentiate itself and ensures that we have something to bring to the negotiating table that is right for each situation.

I am proud of the reputation that Gilead has among emerging biotech companies not just for our creative approach to dealmaking, but also our constructive and collaborative spirit in working with our partners after a deal is closed.

Q: You worked for more than a decade as an investment banker before coming to Gilead. What brought you here?
In my prior role, I worked closely with Gilead dozens of times, so I had the opportunity to get to know the teams and the people over the years. That intellectual rigor, integrity, dedication to innovative science and commitment to patients shared by all the Gilead people I met was a big pull for me.

I had the chance to observe as Gilead’s Corporate Development team transitioned from a small group to one of the most active dealmaking teams in the biotech industry and I wanted to be part of that. It also goes without saying that I was drawn to the company’s commitment to innovation – to bringing forward medicines that offer transformational, rather than incremental, benefit to patients.

Q: What’s next for Gilead in the world of corporate development?  
As I said earlier, one of the things that drew me to Gilead is the company’s very active deal engine. While we have been very active in building our immuno-oncology pipeline in the first half of the year, we also continue focus on seeking innovative programs and technologies to bolster our virology and inflammation portfolios.

We believe that our flexibility in deal structuring is a key advantage that will a help us grow our existing portfolio with new assets. I’m excited to be here – and about our ability to continue to do deals that bring the best scientific innovation to Gilead.