Marc De Garidel meets with CEO James Absalom

1. What is the impact digitalisation has had on the efficiency and end to end visibility of a Life Sciences company?

MDG: “Digital is bringing sweeping changes within R&D, Commercial, and Market Access with big data playing a big part into the success of a newly launched drug.
Research combined with AI will accelerate the discovery of drugs as scientists will be able to select targets via complex and densely packed databases. This will enable them to understand very quickly what works and what does not work.

At Ipsen, I ran a test in 2016 in which I compared the results of our internal team’s efforts vs AI for development for one of our pipeline drugs. The results were astonishing, as what took my team circa 2.5 months to develop, the AI did in two days with the same conclusion.

Another example is in clinical trials. It is essential for a drug company to be able to identify where relevant patients are located, especially when running trials for drugs in niche areas, such as rare diseases. The development of digital medical records has enabled companies to identify and find the patients more quickly.”

2. Which functions have innovation played a key part to the development of the Life Sciences sector over the last few years?

MDG: “One of the key areas that has been impacted by innovation is medicalisation. As technology becomes more refined there is less of a focus on pure commercial areas. Market Access is also a key area as the number of payors has increased substantially in the last few years. The role of Market Access is now essential to maximise the success of a drug in the market place.

Individuals with a change management mindset are important as many companies are implementing innovative ways of working and the most successful people are open to change. This is often acquired by individuals having spent significant amount of time in international markets, working with diverse cultures, rather than spending all their time in one market. US experience is key as well.”

3. How do you perceive the French pharma industry VS other countries and what are the key differentiating factors?

MDG: “Ipsen is having a great run as an example because I focused the company on a limited number of niche areas. France also has a solid scientific driven heritage and there have been a few start-ups in the country that are now listed in the US but unfortunately this tends to be more the exception than the rule, as funding for risky projects is not always welcome or understood.”

4. In the last 5 years where have you seen the most demand for talent?

MDG: “One of the key areas is Medical. Medical Directors are in high demand and Ipsen had quite a tough time to find top people as these candidates have many options and their salary demands are very high.

Like I mentioned previously, Market Access is also a very competitive area and the need for patients to receive treatment in all countries is essential. Influencing clinical trials to make sure health economics outcome data is captured or understanding local reimbursement systems are example of the skill set required.

Regulatory Affairs – As regulation changes swiftly, finding the right talent to optimize drug registration in various geographies is highly desired. Experience with FDA or EMA are becoming critical elements.

Beyond these specific qualities, I believe that people need a true passion for science and patients for long term success in the Life Sciences industry.”

5. Where do you see the biggest opportunity for growth in the Life Sciences sector? How can a company get ahead of the competition?

MDG: “There is tremendous speed in innovation these days. Companies that can grasp those and manage risks appropriately will do extremely well. I continue to believe that being specialized is a big plus, as your expertise reduces the risk of mistakes. Look at the phenomenal success of Actelion in Europe.

Ability to work with partners is also a source of competitive advantage as innovation is often found outside of your company. Knowing where you are good at and not so good is critical from a competitive standpoint.

Finally, I believe in US presence. This is where Ipsen has changed scale when we successfully launched our key drug ourselves to capture full value in commercialization.”

6. What impact and agendas have you previously seen or worked on that have a positive contribution to sustainability?

MDG: “Sustainability has evolved greatly over the last few years and there is much more of a scorecard orientated approach within all the manufacturing and operational areas of the business. This involves things like emissions, waste, and compliance; more and more I have noticed a real drive in this from younger generation employees which is a very positive step and gives a bright outlook for the future.

There are other factors helping drive a sustainable future like reduced paper and Ipsen employees being a much more conscious workforce. Simple things like turning the lights off on all the buildings and sites, as well as shutting down air conditioning units contribute to a more sustainable company. In company annual reports, there has been more exposure to sustainability index reports over the last 10 years.”

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