What is the relevance of the Mexican market for BI in terms of production and sales?
In the past, our largest businesses globally were human pharmaceuticals with its two branches—prescription and OTC or also called consumer healthcare products—animal health, and bio pharmaceuticals. BI in Mexico is ranked 10th in the pharmaceutical industry, which is a significantly better and stronger position than in the rest of the world, where it is ranked around 14-17th. BI has been growing faster in the Mexican market than the rest of the globe. In 2017, we managed growth levels of more than 16%, and that is only in the Mexican private market, as we also participate in the government market. We are close to 3% market share in values. BI has three manufacturing facilities in Mexico; it is perhaps one of the few pharmaceutical companies that decided to invest in Mexico for manufacturing. We have two manufacturing facilities for human pharma and one manufacturing facility for animal health in Guadalajara.
What are the advantages and disadvantages for a large multinational to function a family-owned business?
We invest more than 20% of our own income and funds into R&D. We do not necessarily need to go out and chase capital. We may be the only pharmaceutical company that is privately owned. Since the company's foundation in 1885, BI has clearly stated its intention to remain as a privately owned independent company in order to foster growth for the future. The reason why we are an independent company is because we believe in long-term investments and entrepreneurship. The company has clearly stated in its guidelines and statements that remaining an entrepreneurial family-owned company is key for the success of BI. We are not pushed by the stock market nor are we driven by the highs and lows of investments; we are driven by long-term R&D.
What criteria do you use to select and prioritize these areas of focus in your research?
There are three elements: the need for innovation, the need for best-in-class products, and unmet medical needs. That means we will not go into research in areas where there are 1,000 competitors or participants. The vision of BI worldwide is adding value through innovation; if we do not add value or innovate, we are not interested. For example, we do not do rheumatoid arthritis because there are many companies researching that area; we go more in the specialized fields for diseases such as cancer, myocardial infection, or strokes. We need to concentrate so that we do not run out of funds. Diabetes represents more than 23% of the total income for BI Mexico. In merely a few years, the portfolio has shifted from old and ancient products to specific innovative drugs that are almost one-quarter of our portfolio.
Why did BI decide to acquire Sanofi Merial, and what does this move mean for the animal health industry in Mexico?
In 2017, we became the number-one company in Mexico in the animal health world because we acquired an important business that helped us reach the top. We are ranked number 10 in Mexico, with 3% market share and a strong position for human pharmaceuticals. In animal health, we are number one, with 22% market share, which is an outstanding position. The market is growing around 6% and we are growing close to 16% for both businesses, which is a significantly important growth. OTC products have not necessarily helped our reputation and contribution, so we decided to halt them. We did a swap with Sanofi and exchanged our OTC business with its animal health business. For us, it was perfect because we wanted to develop more innovative products for animal species, which got fulfilled with the swap.
How does BI contribute to the competitiveness of Mexico as a hub for exporting agricultural products?
One of the country's biggest challenges in the last decade, for example, is the influenza strain, and we manufacture influenza vaccines not only for Mexico but also for exports. We are extremely strong and important in this market. BI produces vaccines and pharmaceutical products for the country's growing needs. Since meat is an important component of global diet, the health of animals is extremely important for the health of humans.
BI recently made investments to expand its production of vaccines. What is the priority in the market for these new products?
The specialization of our manufacturing facility in Guadalajara will be vaccines for chicken. Most of our capacity there is related to the vaccines for chicken, specifically for influenza and other avian diseases. We want to provide—as we currently do with humans—value-added services, for instance vaccination technology. This is something that not many companies are doing. When a pharmaceutical company offers a product, at times it also needs to provide vaccination techniques or machines.
What are your top priorities for the coming year?
Access for patients is challenging in our country, and it is something on my personal agenda as well as the chamber's agenda. Mexico is one of the countries that invests the least in health, less than the average contribution of OECD countries; hence, Mexico must invest in supporting the rapidly growing and ageing population. The economy needs to divert more funds to health.