26/11/2020The Impact of COVD-19 on the biopharma industry and tips for bio start-ups
Our President and Chief Executive Officer Christopher Hansung Ko sat down virtually with the Financial Times on November 10 for a fireside chat as part of the Financial Times’ Global Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Conference. During the session, our CEO touched on topics including what role biosimilars could play in saving healthcare costs and the impact of a prolonged COVID-19 pandemic, while sharing his insights and tips for bio start-ups.
Following are excerpts of our CEO’s fireside chat with the Financial Times.
Financial Times (FT): What do you think is the main advantages of biosimilars? What do you think we can take away from how the biosimilars industry has reacted to the pandemic and apply it to the future? What do you think is the main takeaways in that sense?
CEO: All the countries globally are concerned about rising healthcare costs. So, there’s limited amount of money they can spend on healthcare but innovations have to happen and there’s built up pressure that can no longer accommodate new innovations, so biosimilars are the pressure valve. We’re allowing the healthcare industry to save billions of dollars so that the money can be used to fund and pay for new innovations.
With the COVID-19 situation, particularly after, I think globally we’ll be faced with growing healthcare expenditures because we have to treat [COVID-19] patients. There will be even more challenge with funding at first. And biosimilars provide some legroom for us to treat more patients by cutting cost in some of the originators’ biologics’ prices and we can use that money for other parts of the healthcare segments.
FT: So how are you able to realize these savings exactly? And have you found new ways of realizing these savings during the pandemic for example?
CEO: Our products, although it’s referencing the same biologic entities, we have new processes. Much of the originators relied on old processes but now we’re using the state-of-the-art, cutting edge technology with process innovations.
FT: Are you worried about anything in the world or any government or maybe any parts of the industry going against biosimilars?
CEO: We’re trying as much as we can as a company and as a biosimilar industry, but those inadequate and also incorrect descriptions about biosimilars by some parties have been very unfortunate.
Hopefully, going forward, the regulators are able to get the correct message out that we are actually making quality products. I can give you an assurance that an FDA-approved product is an FDA-approved product and an EMA-approved product is an EMA-approved product. There are no second- class approved products in the regulatory agencies. We want to push that message forward.
● COVID-19 Pandemic
FT: What about future plans? Has the pandemic changed from what you’ve been focusing on? For example, has your investigation changed?
CEO: We’re selling our products in Europe, US, Canada, Australia, Brazil, you name it. So, we have to make sure that our products are delivered. The supply chain and product continuity were the most important aspect of our mission. We’ve made a promise to our patients that we’ll deliver [medicines] to them at affordable price. With all these lockdowns, restrictions on people’s movements while some of our vendors’ employees have been affected by COVID, it was scary moments but we have to really [be committed] and go the extra mile to make sure that there’s no disruption in product supply.
That taught us that we need to be prepared better as a company and as an industry to make sure that by redundancies in vendor selections, raw material production and alternative shipping methods validated, just in case one is shut down. So those are the lessons we’ve learned.
● Tips for Bio Start-Ups
FT: Let’s say there’s a small bio-venture that’s starting out in the field now and it’s in incredible uncertainty and looking at years of economic disruption from the aftermath of the pandemic. What are things you would tell to those bio-ventures?
CEO: If you are brave enough to start a start-up, you must be really committed to that idea, or whatever platform or product that you want to push forward. That’s your mission. So, be passionate about your mission. In times of uncertainty, I think you really have to go back to the basics. The basics are called the basics because they stood the test of time. Just stick to it, persevere, and have just some passion to do it.