The health crisis has further bolstered our efforts to drive therapeutic progress.
President of Servier
This year was struck by an unprecedented health crisis. What do you take away from it?
O. L. – First and foremost, my thoughts go to the people who have contracted Covid-19 and their families. But we also can’t forget patients with other health issues, who have been affected indirectly but no less seriously, having to wait to be screened and treated. In light of the severity of the outbreak, Servier rallied to meet the needs of patients and health care professionals without disruption and guarantee the supply of all of the Group’s medications everywhere it operates. Meanwhile, we supported dozens of initiatives providing aid in 37 countries to offer assistance to patients and health care workers throughout the pandemic. Our teams carried out their duties with unwavering commitment in an exceptional situation. I am very proud of that.
What are the initial lessons you have learned from all of it?
O. L. – Internally, the crisis encouraged us to transform our working methods—where we work, how we collaborate together, and how we manage. It accelerated discussions we were already having at Servier about teleworking, particularly in relation to work/life balance. It also showed us just how much digital technology and robust data usage can speed up research and development of new treatments and, ultimately, improve their effectiveness. At every stage, we need to ask ourselves the right questions. Right now, we need to consider how we can prepare for potential future crises, what resources we should invest and which priorities we should set for the health care sector overall and, more specifically, in pharmaceuticals. The pandemic particularly highlighted the extent to which Europe’s health industry is heavily dependent on the rest of the world, Asia in particular.
How can Servier, a French company, be involved in building health care sovereignty for Europe?
O. L. – We have consistently stood by the challenging choice of maintaining the majority of our R&D and a significant proportion of our production capacity in France and elsewhere in Europe, for example at our Arklow and Oril Industrie sites in Ireland and France, respectively. In 2020, the Arklow facility celebrated 30 years since it opened its doors, while Oril Industrie turned 60. Our chemical industry facility in Normandy actively contributes to European health care independence, producing 98% of active ingredients in our brand-name medicines, and we will soon be making significant investments to further develop its capacity. Meanwhile, our biological medicine production unit will enter into service in 2023 at our long-standing Loiret facility in France, in keeping with our conscious effort to maintain industrial roots in Europe.
By deciding to create value in France, Servier accounts for up to 36% of the French industry’s trade surplus.
Lastly, our new Servier Research and Development Institute, currently under construction at the Paris-Saclay hub for scientific and technological innovation, reflects our determination to raise the profile of French research internationally.
Other than the pandemic, what would you say were the main events of the year?
O. L. – In oncology we completed the acquisition of Symphogen, a Danish biotech company known for its cutting-edge expertise discovering monoclonal antibodies. In Japan, where we have operated for over 40 years through licensing agreements and monitoring clinical trials, we launched the first medicine under the Servier name—a pancreatic cancer treatment that paves the way for future Group expansion in the world’s second largest oncology market. We also began Phase 3 trials for new indications for Lonsurf® in a number of countries. Positive results would represent a step forward in the treatment of colorectal cancers. We also recently announced the signature of an agreement to acquire the oncology branch of US based Agios Pharmaceuticals, which marks a new key stage in our oncology roadmap as the acquisition will enable us to develop our drug portfolio and pipeline in oncology, all while consolidating our presence in the US. All these developments help boost our ambition to become a renowned innovator in oncology so that we can treat even greater numbers of cancer patients. Moreover, we are proud that patient groups recognize us as a partner of choice in this field, as proven by Servier’s 10th place in the PatientView Report 2019 rankings.
We also achieved considerable progress in cardiometabolism, an area where the Group has established its reputation.
One of our fixed dose combination medicines—making daily life a bit easier for patients with high blood pressure by associating three molecules in a single pill—became the most commonly prescribed triple combination in the countries where it is available. We also launched our leading venous insufficiency medication in China, which still has a promising future.
Lastly, I would like to highlight the approval by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) of our strategy to reduce our carbon footprint by 25% by 2030. We also live up to our social responsibility through our commitment to play our part in combating climate change.
What are the main challenges facing Servier today and what is the Group doing to address them?
O. L. – Servier has always focused on researching and developing innovative medicines to meet the needs of patients in the Group’s therapeutic areas. Our unique governance model guarantees our independence, enabling us to invest significant resources in long-term research and development.
However, we operate in a market that has become increasingly competitive for both brand name and generic medicines. In particular, the conditions to access and remain in this market, in certain countries, make it increasingly difficult to incorporate the cost of innovation, be it incremental or a breakthrough, into drug pricing. Meanwhile, therapeutic needs are changing. Although we have not yet won the battle against chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases or diabetes, meeting the therapeutic needs of cancer patients has, at the same time, become crucial.
We therefore decided to adjust our strategy, setting ambitious targets for 2025 in order to improve our current performance and fund future development. To achieve them, we are going to ramp up the overall transformation of the Group in order to enhance our performance in terms of financial metrics, labor concerns and therapeutic treatments. We will also revolutionize our R&D to make it even more patient-focused through translational medicine, using digital technology and data processing for greater efficiency and concentrating on three therapeutic areas: oncology, cardiometabolism, and immune-inflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases. At every level of the Group (such as Human Resources, Industry and Operations), transformation programs are being carried out to safeguard our growth, long-term future and independence. Digital technology will be key to guiding us through these changes, so we will be relying heavily on our recently established Digital, Data and Information Systems Department.
Finally, as we truly believe that the commitment of our employees drives our performance, we have set quantifiable targets regarding engagement. To achieve them, we constantly strive to give meaning to our day to day work. In the context of the pandemic and heightened competition, it is our passion for what we do that will drive innovation.
How do you see the pharmaceutical industry globally?
O. L. – The pandemic reminded us just how essential our efforts in the research and development of innovative therapeutic solutions are for treating patients and saving lives. As Covid-19 continues to spread throughout the world, we should all seek to innovate. This will require an unprecedented push to further scientific collaboration, including public private partnerships, to encourage agile project management and showcase the value our industry creates for society.
Servier is determined to play a key role in this drive for open innovation which, because it is governed by a non-profit foundation, will ultimately primarily benefit patients.