BeiGene is a global biotechnology company with a mission to ensure that the most impactful medicines are available to the greatest number of people facing cancer and life-threatening diseases. Fundamentally, my responsibility is to uphold this mission in Europe by building on our commitment to grow in the region.
Our European story so far is in its early stages, but with over 400 employees currently based here, and our regional team doubling in 2022, our expansion plans are already going from strength to strength. We have been able to draw from the best science, talent, and collaborations – wherever they exist – through a combination of key offices in Europe, including our Hub in Switzerland, and remote employees based across the continent. Continuing and building on this legacy is my primary goal.
Most recently, I was senior vice president and head of Europe for Portola Pharmaceuticals, building the European operations from scratch from January 2019 through its acquisition by Alexion in late 2020 – an invaluable experience ahead of joining BeiGene. I previously served in general management roles at Celgene (six years) and Bristol-Myers Squibb (12 years), where I was responsible for multiple launches in haematology, as well as for breast, lung, and pancreatic cancer. Aside from my professional career, I founded SAIL in Bhutan (www.sailinbhutan.com), a non-profit organisation in the field of gastric cancer prevention in Bhutan, as an advisor and supporter to the Bhutanese ministry of health.
Professionally, delivering access for patients as quickly as possible has been instrumental for building BeiGene and we have already managed to achieve availability for our medicines in record time across Europe and globally.
Personally, setting up SAIL in Bhutan in 2018, a non-profit organisation aimed at preventing gastric cancer in Bhutan, a country where the incidence of this cancer is five times greater than the rest of the world.
The pharma industry has been instrumental in saving and improving lives. Consider how fast the industry was able to respond to the global threat of COVID with new medicines and vaccines, or how new innovations in cancer therapies have increased the survival rates for patients with blood cancers, skin cancer, breast cancer, and lung cancer, just to name a few.
My principal ambition is to support patients to get access to such innovative medicines as quickly as possible. In our industry, we can directly influence the realisation of this ambition. For me, there is no greater source of personal motivation.
To save and improve lives – this explains the “why” behind my work, beyond what I do and how I do it.
BeiGene’s motto is ‘Cancer has no borders; neither do we.’ Our goal is to deliver our 2030 strategy; namely, to discover, develop, and provide more affordable access to medicines and reach more people globally.
We operate in an industry where, historically, new medicine production has been driven in higher-income markets that maximise economic gains before seeking delivery in middle and lower-income markets. This has created inequalities, even within Europe. The emphasis in our strategy on affordability and broader availability is a strategic priority for us to reduce health inequalities and maximise patient impact.
Creating a new medicine is one of the most R&D-intensive and complex processes across all industries, requiring increasingly heavy investment. The industry is extremely high risk. At pre-clinical stage, out of 10,000 compounds screened and assessed, only around 10 will become investigational drugs entering the clinical stage. Subsequently, only 1 out of 10 drug candidates successfully passes clinical trial testing and regulatory approval.
This reality means that, despite the estimated average cost of developing a drug being nearly $2.3 billion in 2022, the average projected return on investment (ROI) in R&D was just 1.2%.
It is very important that we better explain this risk and challenge to those outside the industry, so there is greater understanding that ROI is what, in turn, supports the significant investments required to deliver further innovative medicines.
Firstly, trends in treatment development are moving increasingly into rare disease and personalised medicine, which means patients who have previously been without any treatment options are now receiving life-changing medication for the very first time.
Secondly, the acceleration of precision medicine provides the opportunity to optimise the safety and effectiveness of treatments by delivering the right drug to the right patient. Advances in diagnostic accuracy have meant that the development of treatments that benefit smaller subpopulations of patients with the same disease is increasingly a viable pathway for bringing medicines to market.
Explaining ourselves better – the perception of the pharma industry is still far too negative, and we must do more to showcase the positive impact the industry can have.
BeiGene says ‘Cancer has no borders; neither do we’. We strive to create high-quality, innovative medicines faster and more affordably because we accept that it is not enough for new treatments to simply exist without reaching the people who need them.
To turn this commitment into a reality, we have invested heavily into expanding our internal research team, which includes more than 950 oncology researchers, and global clinical development and medical affairs functions, which include over 3,400 colleagues. We actively work to avoid the ‘economic-first’ model, which is why we are pursuing widespread registration in developed and developing markets simultaneously.
In Europe, we have driven a collaborative, flexible, and adaptable approach to market access, which has helped get medicines to patients quicker, often faster than industry averages.
Our ESG strategy is ‘Change is the Cure’. This approach embraces change, new ideas, and diverse points of view to support a more resilient, forward-thinking, and innovative company. I would encourage all my peers to apply this same sentiment in whatever area they are operating.
Historically, the pharmaceutical industry has been slow to innovate its processes and ways of working. At BeiGene, this ‘change’ mentality has helped deliver better outcomes for our patients. Our hope is that this can inspire others to follow a similar path.
None other. I have the perfect job and I try to live in the moment.