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Learning from Game Theory to Improve Negotiations Skills

Bernard Fallon
May 15, 2019

Most new medicines are developed through a process of collaborative licensing agreements or acquisition. Significant negotiations underlie multiple steps of the R&D lifetime for a medicine and potential partners often repeat within a given therapeutic focus or geographic expansion strategy during a company’s lifetime. Therefore, mutually productive negotiating has become one of the most critical skills for a biotech’s leadership team in developing products to improve patients’ lives. On June 2, BIO will provide an opportunity for executives to learn how analytical negotiators apply principles of game theory to optimize deal outcomes and accelerate medical innovation. This half-day workshop will be offered in Philadelphia in advance of the BIO International ConventionBIOtechNow (BTN) spoke with the instructors about what will be covered.


  • Harm-Jan Borgeld, CSAP, PhD, Head Alliance Management, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany
  • Stefanie Schubert, CA-AM, PhD, Professor of Economics, SRH University Heidelberg, Germany

Interviewer: Stefanie and Harm-Jan, please tell me what you will address in your workshop "Improving Negotiations and Decision Making by Applying Game Theory?”

Harm-Jan: In our workshop, we discuss and practice with the participants’ real-life biopharma negotiation cases with the goal to enhance decision making and improve the negotiation skills of the attendees.

Stefanie: We do this by applying game theory, the science of strategic decision making. We gave the workshop also at BIO 2018 in Boston. One of the aspects of the course that the attendees liked were the cases. Taken this feedback into account, we added two more cases so that the entire workshop is based around real-life negotiation cases in the biotech and pharmaceutical world.

Interviewer: How did you come up with the combination of negotiations and game theory?

Stefanie: The first time that I met Harm-Jan, I realized quickly how he makes decision and negotiates – he used game theoretic principles in practice. But he wasn’t aware he did. Thus, he was not able to fully exploit the benefits from his structured way of thinking. Now, many of the attendees to our workshop at BIO 2018 were in the same situation as Harm-Jan. The use principles of game theory without knowing it. The beauty of the workshop is that the attendees learn to know how to “actively” apply game theory to negotiation and decision making and with this improve their outcomes.

Interviewer: There are many decision making or negotiation classes. Why should people attend your course?

Harm-Jan: The uniqueness of our workshop does not only come from the combination of both topics, but also from adding “influencing” for which we have a separate section in our workshop. Our principle is that neither negotiations nor decision making can be thought as a stand-alone course. The combination of negotiations, game theory, decision making and influencing is where the attendees can truly enhance their negotiations skills with.

Stefanie: We use game theory on a very applicable basis so that learning can be used immediately. On top of that, we show that changing the rules of the game and applying strategic moves may change a situation completely – to one’s own advantage.

Interviewer: Thank you for the interview and good luck with your workshop at the BIO 2019 in Philadelphia!

For additional details and to register for the workshop visit here.