Nov. 2, 2018

 Joe Henein

UAE, Dubai

Joe Henein

CEO, NewBridge Pharmaceuticals

TBY talks to Joe Henein, CEO of NewBridge Pharmaceuticals, on building brands, supporting SMEs in the region, and driving innovation.


Joe Henein is a senior executive with an accomplished career extending over 30 years in the pharmaceutical industry in the US, Europe, and MENA. A pharmacist by training, he has assumed many senior positions with Wyeth Pharmaceuticals including Vice President and Managing Director for the MENA region. In addition, he also served in various Wyeth executive committees during his tenure, such as the Global Development Council, Global Development Strategy Board, and European Operation Council. At the industry level, he assumed the role of the Vice Chairman for the PhRMA MEA Committee and the Chairman for the PhRMA MEA Ethics Review Board.

How has the company developed in the past year?

2017 was a kinder year than 2016, albeit it was still somewhat challenging. Certain products started to reflect a proper takeoff after launching in different markets. Understandably, it is a complex undertaking to launch multiple products in multiple geographies one after the other in a short time span. Overall, our specialty business is doing well in the areas where we compete. NewBridge's business model is to create value for the brands we represent in the region, whose manufacturers do not want to enter the region themselves but want to do it through a competent partner. NewBridge is positioned to be a regional platform that brings innovation to all MENA markets as a one-stop solution and, hence, was chosen as MENA partner of choice by many global pharma companies. We built a company that mimics multinationals, but on a smaller and nimbler scale. We created the structure, assets, and balance sheets, and filled a gap to attract these partners. This quickly created a name for us regionally and internationally. The core of our success is still within the GCC markets, and our focus remains there. However, we are currently expanding to other markets.

What would you like to see from regulators to help pharma start-ups succeed in Dubai?

The Dubai government has a progressive vision for the future, and as such, the UAE is ahead of the pack among other countries in MENA. Dubai has taken the lead in being creative, innovative, and aggressive in its pursuit of strategic advancement, and the results are obvious. It is the hub of all the major businesses in the Middle East. One of the things that I would like to see is more alignment regarding support for SMEs in the UAE. While there is a strong will and drive by governments, some sectors do not follow suit. Banks, for example, are not fully engaged in supporting SMEs. From a healthcare standpoint, there are certain areas that need to be addressed, such as how regulators look at SMEs compared to large companies in the sector. Innovations do not come only from large global companies; they also come from smaller companies that do not see MENA as a core priority but prefer to partner with a strong partner that can manage new products and innovations. NewBridge Pharmaceuticals is a vehicle to bring key innovations and products that may address serious medical needs in the Middle East. You need compliance, quality and pharmacovigilance systems in place. You need medical, commercial, marketing, and regulatory capabilities. You need a serious company with a clear vision and purpose, as well as serious processes and talents that can be entrusted to cater for these brands and provide the physicians with new modalities of treatments in our specializations. We are doing something positive because we bring important medication to the region.

What is your outlook for the upcoming year?

I would like to see oil prices stabilizing, which would reflect in more solid and stable economies in the countries where we operate. Moreover, I would like to see us increase access to the medicines we bring, reach more patients in need, and create greater value for our brands and shareholders. We have a great international network to access innovations and will continue to be successful in bringing significant, innovative medicines moving forward. Already, we have started to see interest from larger companies in the service space becoming interested in partnering with us. At some point, NewBridge might become part of a larger group or company in the future. We are also considering smaller acquisitions to provide more value in this space.