FIT AS A FIDDLE

Dubai 2020 | HEALTH | INTERVIEW

Novartis believes Dubai is the perfect test tube to create a world-class medical hub for the region.

Georg Schroeckenfuchs
BIOGRAPHY

Georg Schroeckenfuchs graduated in marketing and sales from the Vienna University of Economics and Business. He began his career in 1988 as a sales representative for Glaxo Pharmazeutika. In 2001, he joined Novartis Austria as head of general medicine, before becoming head of sales in 2007. In the same year, he was appointed general manager for Slovenia and regional head of the Balkans. In 2011, he was appointed country pharma organization (CPO) head and country president for Poland and the Baltic Countries. In 2012, he became CPO head and country president for Greece, and in 2013, he was appointed CPO Head and country president of Italy. He has held his current position since 2018.

Novartis is a company on the forefront of global research. What key initiatives is it driving in the region, and how you are looking to take the industry to the next level?
UAE is a hub for innovation, which really ties in with Novartis' mission to reimagine medicine to improve and prolong peoples' lives. Our mission is broader than pharmaceuticals; it is about driving healthcare solutions. Novartis is a leading company in gene technology and cell and gene therapy. The UAE is the third country in the world to approve a new technology for gene therapy for those with hereditary blindness. We collaborate with all the key stakeholders in all relevant areas. The UAE's Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHP) announced its plans to transform the country to become a major global pharmaceutical hub. The UAE aims to attract more than 75 major pharmaceutical firms by 2021. This is integrated into the government's objective to find solutions to provide better healthcare, as healthcare spending is expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 9.5% through 2025. On top of that, the government truly understands that new technology makes a difference. They are focusing on ensuring that investment moves into innovation and technology because this provides long-term consistent healthcare.

How does Novartis lead in enhancing the R&D capacity of Dubai and the UAE's human talent in the healthcare sector?
As a company, we believe in the power of cultural transformation for empowering our people to apply their full creativity to tackling scientific and healthcare challenges. Building up gene technology means, automatically, we are engaged in knowledge and technology transfer. This sophisticated segment of the industry ensures the transfer of expertise and technology is also at a high level, unlike the transfer happening in local manufacturing. We also want to continue building up the various types of congresses and symposiums we hold and bringing in overseas knowledge to the UAE. Third, we are working on how we can expand our clinical trials and clinical research on the ground here.

What nuances and complexities are you dealing with in Dubai and the region in terms of bringing greater access to healthcare solutions?
In general, Dubai is the perfect hub for the region because it is easy to attract highly qualified international experts, and it has excellent infrastructure and good connectivity within MENA. If you think about the Middle East, there are three different tiers into which we can segment MENA. One is finding countries that are really on the leading edge of innovation and supporting an innovative environment. Second, countries with systems based more on established medicine where it takes longer to register products and refresh your portfolio. Third are some markets where there are conflicts and wars; there you have a different responsibility as a pharmaceutical company. In these markets, we strive to ensure that patients get essential medicine that the government is not able to source anywhere else. For markets more focused on established medicine, the issue is how you can mature your portfolio and help their health systems further develop. It is about ensuring the right products get into the market and addressing patient affordability. On the other hand, in those markets where you have strong innovation, like the Gulf, Egypt, and Lebanon, it is about how patients can get early access to those innovative treatments. In this case, the UAE is well-positioned to launch immediately after the US and has positioned itself as one of the first countries to ensure such products are available. There are strong synergies between Dubai's ambitions to become a hub for healthcare and its vision of introducing global best practices in healthcare management, along with our commitment to delivering innovations across multiple therapeutic areas. The UAE is a robust launchpad for our innovations, facilitating access to the wider region.