#Call4.0Leaders | Michel Eschenbrenner (Servier Pharma Romania): We believe in the power of active collaboration as opposed to competition

Mihai-Alexandru Cristea 31/05/2022 | 14:55

Another top business professional in Romania takes center stage under the #Call4.0Leaders spotlight! In this installment of Business Review special interview series, Michel Eschenbrenner, General Manager at Servier Pharma Romania, answered our call and the 4 questions about the trends of the new reality: resiliency and sustainability, the human-machine balance, organizational agility, and Co-opetition.

 

What projects have you carried out over the past year to make your company’s operations more sustainable and resilient?

Servier is a stable Group, governed by a non-profit Foundation, Fondation Internationale de Recherche Servier (FIRS), which preserves its independence and sustainability, as well as a unique structure in the pharmaceutical industry.

In a rather volatile world, marked by uncertainties and complex, this structure helps us to remain committed to our vocation: the therapeutic progress to serve our patients’ needs.

As a research and development focused company we have this great advantage of innovation as a means of covering both needs and inherent changes around us. It is this that allows our company to contribute, while being sustainable and relevant, at the same time.

An example of sustainable project indicating a remarkable progress, with long-term impact, is provided by Servier Research and Development Institute in Paris-Saclay. Scheduled to be opened in 2023, the Institute will drive Servier’s ambition to provide patients with breakthrough therapeutical innovations. With the Research and Development Institute, Servier strongly affirms its position among the most influential innovators in France and Europe. With 15% of national research, 40% of public and private research jobs in Ile-de-France, with the jewels of French academic and private research, the scientific and technological cluster of Paris-Saclay is among the eight most powerful innovation hubs in the world. Servier will be the only international pharma present in this unique cluster.

The Institute will serve as a start-up incubator to foster knowledge sharing. Innovating as a network, without barriers, is critical to responding even more effectively and quickly to patients’ unmet needs.

At the same time, a modern company needs to equally involve, beyond its contribution to innovation processes, in discovering new therapies. We therefore need to be responsible for the way our operations impact the society and environment. Thus, Servier is aligned to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. From gender equality to actions designed to protect the environment and economical growth through commitment in order to support health – Servier’s top priority – all these contribute to adapting and continuous sustainable development of the company.

In terms of resilience, in Romania, we treat around 2 million patients every month, which means 12% of the adult population here. We hold the 3rd position regarding the number of pills sold and I do believe that continuing to provide on-going patients’ access to treatments, no matter the challenges these past few years have brought, means both resilience and high responsibility.

Resilience comes natural to us; it is embedded in our people centric culture. It is about the employees as it is about our patients, who are at the heart of all our actions.  We actively promote individual and collective engagement among our teams, each and every Servier employee helps advance therapeutical progress and is recognized for his scientific excellence.

In 2019, Servier launched, with independent analytics firm Gallup, a five-year engagement program aiming to measure and strengthen team engagement to support long-term performance at global level, in terms of therapeutic treatments, financial metrics and our permanent labor concern. In 2021, the program (PULSE) recorded a response rate of 88% and the Group obtained the Top Employer Europe 2021 certification. Servier Pharma Romania received the Top Employer certification in 2020.

This year, we celebrate 30 years of activity in Romania, which says a lot about our sustainable business model as well as about our resilience in time. #weareservier for 30 years and we bring the future closer, powered by people, always together.

 

How can we find the right balance between intelligent machines and human intelligence in the new business reality of accelerated automation and digitalization?

In terms of digitalization, the pandemic challenges reaffirmed our responsibility towards providing a rapid but correct access to digital information. We all observe, these days, how easily we can fall into the trap of fake news. It is our industry’s responsibility, especially when it comes to health, to provide credible pieces of information and support the communities we work with. Today’s patient searches for information online. To tackle this need, we have developed information platforms about pathologies, diseases awareness campaigns, all in close collaboration with the doctors we work with every day.

A recent study conveys that – at this moment – there are around half billion apps developed worldwide, especially designed to help patients in monitoring treatments, dosing algorithms of various medicines, access to medical services. We can contribute to this particular area too, starting with a company’s infrastructure. We, at Servier, have a division dedicated to computer systems and digital data processing. This division represents a technological solutions incubator, meant to develop the best, most useful and friendly tech solution, together with doctors and patients, which can support the patient in the chronic pathologies they face.

Therapeutical progress, the way we see it, in Servier, through seeking scientific excellence and discovery of new treatments, means easing our patients lives. The patient is at the heart of all our actions, which provides a balance. We’re talking about an intense research & development (R&D) activity, with the human factor in the middle of all processes, doubled by the digitalization we aim, designed to foster therapeutical process.

A more patient-focused approach, integrating the patient into every stage of R&D, leading to closer ties between basic and clinical research, giving rise to what is known as translational research. This approach has two major advantages: a better understanding of the disease and speeding up the process of moving candidate drugs through the various clinical phases. It relies in particular on the use of innovative biomarkers that provide information about the effect of treatment on the disease for different groups of patients. Translational medicine takes clinical observations and patient needs as a starting point to be able to evaluate new molecules more quickly. Servier has formed a new department specifically to focus on the collaboration between researchers and clinicians and apply the learnings to its projects to increase the probability of success.

Target areas of expertise. To maximize the success of its therapeutic innovations while also preserving the specificities inherent to their development, Servier has chosen to channel its efforts in the following therapeutic areas: in oncology, where the Group endeavors to become a recognized and innovative player, the aim is to concentrate on the most difficult cancers to treat; in neuroscience and immuno-inflammation, Servier primarily addresses targeted diseases to respond to the yet unmet medical needs of patients and in cardiometabolism, where the Group focus on Life Cycle Management (LCM) to capitalize on its medicines and expertise in incremental innovation, in particular by developing Single Pill Combinations.

A more effective structure: the R&D Department has been restructured in order to foster a more collaborative approach. Digital technology and data increase agility, efficiency and productivity to speed up the research process, the iterative molecule identification procedure and clinical trials, while also developing a more detailed understanding of patients. Furthermore, building stronger relations with the production side in order to approach innovation in terms of usage will streamline the Chemistry, Manufacturing and Controls (CMC) activity. The Chief Medical Officer gathers patient feedback and passes it on during medical R&D missions.

 

Are flatter, more agile structures better equipped to succeed in the new reality than their more traditional and rigid counterparts? How would you describe your organization in this regard?

At the creation outset of the new Pharmaceutical Strategy for Europe, President Ursula von der Leyen highlighted two clear priorities: to ensure Europe has the supply of affordable medicines to meet its needs and to support the European pharmaceutical industry to ensure that it remains an innovator and world leader. This means regaining leadership in R&D and Europe’s independence and resilience in regards to healthcare.

Servier is very much aligned with these priorities having more than half of its production facilities and R&D centers in Europe, 16 production sites, 15 International Centers for Therapeutic Research worldwide, 3 Servier BioInnovation offices and 6 R&D Centers.

Servier is 31st largest pharmaceutical Group worldwide and 2nd largest pharmaceutical Group in France, with 22,500 employees in 150 countries. Leader in cardiology, with the ambition to become a renowned and innovative player in oncology. We are equipped with latest technology R&D transformation programs so as to launch one new molecular entity every 3 years. For that matter, more than 20% of Group brand-name revenue is invested in R&D each year, out of which, 50% in oncology.

The strength of this model comes from the company’s agility and flexibility to adapt over the years, the independence is provided by the governance of a non-profit organization and, together, the two of them, assure the business sustainability. To answer your question, I believe in a hybrid model, both traditional and new, that can overcome tomorrow’s challenges and face new realities.

 

Is the business world evolving from a competition mindset to a co-opetition one? How integrated is your company in this regard and what can you tell us about the partnerships you carried out with other organizations?

Pandemic raised 3 major challenges but, as any crisis situation, it must lead to progress, in the end. First challenge shows the need to collaborate. Shouldn’t they have collaborated, pharma companies, companies, authorities and academic field, we wouldn’t have reached this performance of bringing new treatments and vaccines on the market in such a short period of time. Secondly, we revised our production unit’s performance, their resilience and possibility to produce large quantities in a given tight timeframe. Last but not least, the efficiency of the regulatory processes so that – once innovation occurs – to be able to deliver it in safe conditions to the market.

This brings me back to Romanian market and collaboration. Pharma industry needs to continue its efforts to provide innovation and put the patient in the center of everything they do. We do need to continue investing in R&D and supporting diseases awareness and medical education.

We believe in the power of active collaboration as opposed to competition, in order to contribute to the greater good. Servier has a network of over 30 active partnerships and over 40 active research collaborations worldwide. Actually, our entire R&D model is an open and collaborative one, based on numerous strategic alliances with laboratories, biotechs, academics around the world. All with the purpose of accelerating innovation.

In Romania, in these 30 years of activity, we’ve built partnerships with over 300 Societies, Scientific and Medical Associations, Patient Associations, NGOs, Medical Colleges, Federations, Foundations, Medical Universities and Institutions, hospitals and clinics. We provide financial support to online and offline medical education program, our own and our partners’ scientific events, prevention programs, diagnostic campaigns and human support, through an annual boost of approx. 2 million euros. As there are still areas in Romania where I believe there is need of investment, we need to get involved and continue to provide help.

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