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Innovation - The Driving Force of the Pharmaceutical Industry

Wilson Borges is a well-known and knowledgeable professional in the pharmaceutical industry. Wilson has forty years of experience in the industry, he worked for twenty years at Pfizer and has had the opportunity to launch several successful products. He also led business units at Roche and Wyeth. Over the past 15 years, he was the CEO at Zambon, Medley and Natulab. Wilson is currently a consultant, and works doing mentoring and lectures on people management and engagement.

Text taken from the interview with Wilson Borges available on our YouTube channel.

Our theme for today is Innovation in the Pharmaceutical Industry.

Wilson Borges:

The pharmaceutical industry lives by innovation, therefore investments in the development and pharmaceutical innovation are the most important subjects in the business, and we see that even in times of great recession, the investments in critical technologies and the development of new drugs are still very strong in large companies around the world.

Global innovation: +

For instance, according to the calculation of the Tufts Center – they are centers for the study of investment in drug development in the United States – the average spending on research and development of new drugs by the global pharmaceutical industry (and we must remember that the time from basic research to clinical testing is around ten to twelve years), was around 180 billion dollars in 2019 and should exceed 200 billion by 2024 .

And when we look forward, it gets even more representative as the population ages. There is a race for innovation, the so-called “science of life,” one that not only delivers the cure of some diseases, but also allows for greater quality of life living with the illness. The demand for financial and human resources is extensive in the processes of developing these drugs for a better quality of life, especially in the chronic disease market and/or autoimmune diseases such as arthritis rheumatoid, diabetes and cancer. If there is something that has not changed in the last 30 , 40 or 50 years, it is the pharmaceutical industry's desire to innovate and the priority to invest in research and development.

Pharmaceutical Innovation in Brazil: The local industry has introduced several initiatives for the development of innovative molecules; however, with the rapid emergence of new technologies, the new regulatory demand calls for more high-tech testing, more patients, and more analysis time – and all of this causes the pharmaceutical development to become more expensive and difficult to access to the emerging markets. And it's not just financial resources, we lack great minds to lead these projects as of biosimilars, biotechnology and genome; the big minds are generally hired by the big multinationals. We have companies here in Brazil that went abroad to seek out great researchers to start some development, but this is still very early and is far from what large multinationals do. When we look at government support for research in the country, it is ridiculous, it practically doesn't exist; therefore, there's also a cultural point, which now we're starting to deal better with (when I say “we”, I am referring to the pharmaceutical segment). Considering that the average product development takes ten years and, according to the statistics of every ten drugs, only one actually continues, the investment risk is very high, something that the national entrepreneur was not used to. It has initiatives like the Bionovis and others with scarce BNDES resources, and some partners have evolved, but some entrepreneurs in Brazil still have a certain doubt, because they risk spending years, investing millions, reaching the finish line, and the product falls off.

Attractiveness of the Brazilian market for international pharmaceutical companies: Brazil’s market it fantastic. Even though there are a lot of problems regarding politics, finanances, economic instability, high inflation, dollar rises, dollar falls; Brazil was and will always be one of the main global markets, not only in the pharmaceutical area, I think in several other segments too.

Especially in pharmaceuticals, if we take a look at the future and compare it with developed countries, here we will have a higher aging and growing population rate, a very different projection compared to other countries such as the United States and Europe, who are stagnant in terms of population.

Any pharmaceutical company that really wants to grow, must be in Brazil, it's impossible not to be in Brazil. We have a lot of positive things, and there is a huge market. And as bad as it may be, we have many good programs to access free medication; in fact, if we take the high-cost medication market, it is almost 100% financed by the government. I think Brazil had a negative period in the 80's, but today it is always a priority in most pharmaceutical companies in the world, not to say all.

Professionals in the area of innovation / new business in Brazil.

We have very skilled people when we look at the technical side of development, well assembled experimental laboratories and partnerships with universities, but when we look at the new business today for a pharmaceutical company, I think that we still need to walk a little in the position’s scope. We see that business development areas are gaining more space and more qualified professionals in these companies, whether they are local or multinational.

New businesses are the company's fuel to ensure long-term competitiveness, and everyone knows about this. With data showing that innovation is the top priority on the strategic agenda of more than 60% of companies in the pharmaceutical and life sciences area in Brazil, we are only behind the consumer goods sector, which reaches almost 70%; therefore, what must happen now is an improvement and an alignment of the work scope of the manager of the new business area, which has gained a lot of importance.

It was an area that practically did not exist, it was there just to comply with the schedule, and the big spotlight was on the marketing team. It is now more divided, and the spotlight on a manager or a director of new business is huge, it must seek partnership, he/she must seek development, opportunities every year. Therefore, the position became more interesting, and professionals, over time, are adapting to it.

See the entire interview on our YouTube channel or listen to it on our Spotfy

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