Investing in Constant Innovation: Q&A with Wafik Bardissi, Chairman and CEO, Minapharm Pharmaceuticals
Despite political unrest over the last five years, the pharma sector has witnessed significant growth, driven by the large population and high demand. Consumption of innovative pharmaceuticals and complex recombinant or genetically engineered products, however, is incompatible with demand, due to the cost of sophisticated products and multinationals’ interest in importing them, rather than transferring know-how. The lack of regulation on imports of finished products jeopardises the industry’s medium- and long- term future. The government does offer incentives for Egyptian-manufactured products but without a strategy to encourage innovation, the importation of expensive finished products is likely to continue. Aside from the economic burden, this could limit access to modern medications that contribute to the quality and duration of human life.
On competitive advantages
From the start, we partnered with global leaders to manufacture and market branded products and advanced formulations. Capitalising on the success of [our] pharma business, we began genetic engineering early on, via a joint venture with a European biotech company, which created an R&D team of young, talented Egyptian scientists and their German counterparts. We manufactured and launched complex recombinant products, in one case leading to a six-fold price reduction versus a similar import.
The introduction of a culture of innovation and R&D demanded strategic and intelligent managerial decisions, with alternating attitudes to risk.
Making innovation affordable required higher levels of challenge and change. We’ve led a 15-year transformation to organisational intelligence, so every stakeholder understands innovation is incomplete until it contributes to an affordable product. The complex, evolutionary nature of [our] business model posts ongoing risks to its sustainability.
On sustaining growth
In 2010, Minapharm acquired ProBioGen, the Berlin-based cellular engineering specialist and global provider of intelligent proprietary technologies. This attracted tremendous interest in Europe. For the first time, the buyer of an established, leading European biotech enterprise was from the emerging part of our world. Not only did this consolidate our biotech business and contribute to ensuring its sustainability, it provided a visionary cooperation platform to use German know-how to develop and market innovative, affordable medicines, including modern immunotherapies, for resource-limited companies. While synergy projects drive technology transfer between Cairo and Berlin, investments in new facilities in each cityaim to grow both businesses. Minapharm gives its German subsidiary free reign to strengthen its customer base, including large pharma players worldwide. From a regional technology-driven manufacturer of affordable complex medicines, Minapharm has transformed into a global provider of intelligent technologies to the biotech industry.
On quality systems
Our partnership network, including world leaders in the industry as licensors and licensees, has made a strong contribution to our quality systems. All our products and manufacturing technologies are embedded in a total quality-management system to assure compliance with international ISO and GMP standards (EMA/ FDA). Our history has much in common with Egypt’s. We have been subject to the same stress tests and shown outstanding resilience. This in itself is a great achievement.
Establishing an Egyptian research community that specialises in process R&D technologies and has launched complex therapeutic proteins is a milestone in Egypt’s pharmaceuticals history. [Our] business model has grown in an emerging market and is positioned globally. We have acquired intelligent biopharmaceutical solutions to focus on affordability. Viewing technologies for human medical needs as potentially intelligent is the management approach to implementing our corporate vision.