THE MIRACLE OF NATURE

Costa Rica 2019 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

Firms like Laboratorios Lisan are utilizing Costa's Rica's unique biodiversity to push a homegrown pharmaceutical offering that could challenge global giants.

Rodolfo Carboni
BIOGRAPHY
Rodolfo Carboni is a civil engineer that has been with Laboratorios Lisan since 1990. Following in his father's footsteps, he is currently the General Manager.

How do you see the current state of the pharmaceutical sector and is there a possibility to establish Costa Rica as a regional hub to export pharmaceutical products?

There are 300 pharmaceutical laboratories in Costa Rica, according to an international publication. After operating in the Costa Rican market for 38 years, Lisan is among the 22 largest laboratories operating in the country. Indeed, multinational companies are ahead of us, and getting to the top level means that we have to overcome the largest companies. As a result, Lisan is focused on developing pharmaceutical products from active vegetable ingredients in order to grow outside of Costa Rica. The generic segment is saturated, which is why we are seeking a different strategy to export unique products that do not compete with big pharma companies in the region.

One of the company's initiatives is adopting the country brand. What does it mean for a company to adopt the country brand?

Adopting the country brand is part of our strategy to export. In this industry, it is necessary to export because the operational costs in relation to the size of the market are high. So, shipping products abroad is highly important to avoid depending solely on the Costa Rican market. Thus, the challenge was how to seek opportunities in other countries because many Latin American nations have passed laws to protect their local industries. Therefore, we have invested our profits in R&D to create a unique brand with innovative products for the global market. As a result, when we learned that Procomer wanted to align our products to the country brand, we found an opportunity to demonstrate we can generate products by just using vegetable ingredients for developed countries. At present, Lisan is already exporting to the US.

How can the country as a whole invest a lot more in research and development to become a leader in innovation?

30 years ago, there was a program to boost industry in Costa Rica. My proposal, back then, was that national laboratories should create an R&D center for the entire pharmaceutical industry. Back in the day, we started to see that the development of new products from natural ingredients was taking shape. At Lisan, we started to invest in R&D in 1998. Such a decision was easy for us because since Lisan is a family-owned company and in 1995 we decided not to pay dividends and use those profits for R&D.

Do you see an opportunity for Procomer to attract foreign investment?

At this moment, we are opening other markets and we are using a fulfillment center supported by Procomer, which is also our representative for dealing with the US government. That has helped us greatly, because having our own fulfillment center in the US is not viable.

What are the main achievements and milestones of Lisan?

When Lisan started, we were the 180th largest laboratory among the 200 that existed in Costa Rica. What made Lisan different was that it focused on quality from the beginning. We imported products and formed a strong quality control system to ensure those products were in compliance with the laws. Consequently, quality began to align with our brand.
What differentiates Lisan from other companies?
We create botanical-based products instead of using synthetic drugs. In the development of natural products, we fulfill all the norms and regulations. To develop our products, we extract the actives from plants, measure the quantity that we need for therapeutic use, and ensure our pills contain the required amount of the drug; our process is standardized. We give the consumer the assurance that the product will remain consistent

What role do certifications play in your commercial strategy?

It is required by law to follow the good manufacturing practices code. The challenge is to make the world market understand that a country in the middle of the Americas is doing something trustworthy. Costa Rica has an extremely rich biodiversity, so if we are able to seize this biodiversity, we can offer quality products to the entire world.

How are you planning to expand?

The Central American market is a complex one and we have focused on this market with generics. However, this is not a profitable market. Our natural products are unique because they are created with plants from Costa Rica, so we would like to enter into the European market in the short run through our plant-based products.