Jul. 2, 2021


Juan López-Belmonte Encina

Spain

Juan López-Belmonte Encina

President, FarmaIndustria

“Spain has a solid manufacturing sector, with 82 plants for the production of medicines for human use and exports worth 12.7 billion euros a year.”

BIO

Juan López-Belmonte Encina has a degree in Economic and Business Sciences from the CEU San Pablo University in Madrid, with a specialization in auditing, since 1993. He has worked for Laboratorios Farmacéuticos Rovi since 1994. In October 2001 he was appointed CEO and since October 2007 he has been the CEO of the company, leading the IPO of Rovi in December of that year. He has been vice president of the Governing Council and Board of Directors of Farmaindustria.


Farmaindustria, created in 1963, is the national trade association of the pharmaceutical industry in Spain. What are the objectives with which it was created?

Farmaindustria is close to reaching 60 years of activity. We group together 137 companies, the majority of the innovative biopharmaceutical laboratories established in our country, with both national and multinational capital, which represent almost all sales of patented prescription drugs in Spain. Therefore, we represent a strategic sector for society, both due to the nature of its activity and based on its commitment to health as well as its business and economic contribution, with high added value: the pharmaceutical industry. The association's objective is to represent the associated companies in society and before their public administrations, collaborate with them, support the sector's commitment to R&D, communicate the reality of the pharmaceutical industry to public opinion, and offer value-added services to associated companies.

The pharmaceutical sector brings together around 20% of investment in R&D in the Spanish industry and leads in the number of patent applications in our country. How do you rate the innovation processes carried out by local pharmaceutical companies?

We do actively collaborate with public and private biomedical research centers, contributing to its dynamization. The investment of our companies in R&D in Spain now exceeds 1.2 billion euros per year, with almost half of that investment made in collaboration with third parties. This strong investment by companies and close collaboration with the health administration, hospitals, researchers, and patients has made Spain an international reference in clinical trials and has generated experience and dynamics compared to other countries that, with the appropriate strategy, can help attract more international investment in research.

There has been some debate regarding the protection of patents related to COVID-19. Should patents on COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, and medicines be eliminated?

Eliminating patents is not the solution today in order to meet the challenge of urgently increasing global production of vaccines. This challenge must be faced through collaboration agreements between vaccine development companies and those that have the capacity to participate in some phase of the production process. Not all countries and companies are qualified to produce vaccines. Therefore, it is not a patent problem. On the contrary, these collaboration agreements imply the transfer of technology and the necessary know-how to be able to produce these vaccines with guarantees, which could not be done without a clear framework of industrial property. And that route is already working. Since 2020, more than 300 cooperation agreements have been concluded between developer and producer companies, involving 100 companies from 33 countries. With these agreements in place, the forecasts made by independent institutions are that in 2021 there will be between 10 and 12 billion doses, which would be enough to vaccinate 70-75% of the population and achieve group immunity.

What are Farmaindustria's main objectives for the rest of 2021?

Farmaindustria has been proposing a strategy to the administration that, through cooperation, allows pharmaceutical companies to be one of the strategic sectors that contributes to economic reactivation and promotes a production model for the coming years. We are proposing a model in which the large classic sectors of the Spanish economy, such as tourism and construction, are complemented by others linked to innovation and the ability to attract new sources of international investment. For this, we need to generate a country strategy that understands health, biomedical research, and medicine not as an expense, but as an investment with clear returns in the health, economic, and social aspects. On this basis, there are two lines to advance moving forward: reinforcing the manufacturing sector to reduce dependence on the outside production of essential drugs and working to turn Spain into a great international space for biomedical research. To start with, Spain has a solid manufacturing sector, with 82 plants for the production of medicines for human use and exports worth 12.7 billion euros a year; however, the pandemic has forced us to ask ourselves if we should limit our foreign dependence on the production of essential drugs abroad, especially from Asia. We have the capacity to recover part of that production, give our country greater strategic protection, and reinforce our pharmaceutical manufacturing sector. From Farmaindustria, we have already presented a specific initiative to the Ministry of Industry that aspires to be one of the Strategic Projects for Economic Recovery and Transformation (Perte) approved at the time by the Council of Ministers. It is about increasing strategic manufacturing capacities to have greater guarantees in the supply of strategic medicines and, at the same time, improving the productive competitiveness of the pharmaceutical industry in Spain through its training in knowledge, technology, and digitalization. The other great commitment of our sector is related to excellence in clinical research. We are convinced we can be a great international investment pillar in this field. We are already a global reference in clinical drug research, as has been demonstrated during the pandemic, as our country is the first in Europe and the fourth in the world in clinical trials against COVID-19. The solidity of our healthcare system, the high qualification of our healthcare professionals, the involvement of patients, and the strong commitment of companies has allowed us to get here, and we are in a position to take a big leap.

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