TBY talks to Joe W. Henein
, CEO & President of NewBridge Pharmaceuticals
, on the importance of increased access to medicine in the region, role of SME’s high-end specialty pharmaceutical services, and ambitions for growth and expansion.
In line with the innovation directive of the government, how are you trying to foster creativity in biotech and pharmaceutical sectors?
We have positioned ourselves from the start as a vehicle and a bridge to innovation from West to East, hence the name NewBridge
. We had successfully partnered with a number of global pharmaceutical companies whom elected to operate in the region through NewBridge
services and resources. We are very focused on bringing innovative therapeutics or disruptive technologies that address unmet medical needs or improve the quality of a patient’s life compared to the standard of care. What we do today falls right into the new directive by the UAE government of fostering innovation, because we offer the necessary platform and structure to these innovative companies to come to the region, partner with a capable regional company, and provide access to their innovation across multiple geographies in MENA. We are very proud to be operating from a country so progressive like the UAE, which offers the right business environment and acts as a regional magnet and hub for talent in the pharmaceutical field.
Do you find that product penetration and market access is easier in emerging markets because the healthcare sector is smaller?
Product access is not necessarily dependent on size of the market, it is more about the healthcare structure, market segments, the payers, processes and funding of medicines. For example, the MENA pharmaceutical markets hold great potential and is expected to be one of the fastest growing markets with an estimated CAGR of 9-11% in the period between 2015-2020. However, at the same time, there are many challenges that could stifle this growth such as the regulatory pathways, which can be long and arduous – although we have seen progressive efforts lately to improve that in a number of key countries. Reference pricing mechanisms and price controls also pose a risk, as does absence of adequate insurance coverage in many markets in MENA, leaving a big portion of its population to procure medicines out of pocket, which can be burdensome. However, as of late we have seen significant improvement on the health insurance side in some GCC countries.
How do you differentiate your services from the competition?
We have the rigor of big pharmaceutical companies but the agility and entrepreneurship of small companies. We have very demanding standards and processes, crucial to operate in this industry, but at the same time, we can move fast in our decisions and be innovative and agile in our strategies. We also have institutional investors, mainly healthcare industry investors from San Francisco; the venture arm of Kuwait’s sovereign fund, KLSC; and the Kuwait Investment Authority, KIA. What this means is that we are institutional in the way we operate and in the way we are backed, and that is how we differentiate ourselves from competition with same business model.
Do you intend to conduct any mergers and acquisitions?
The global pharmaceutical industry is very fragmented. For example, the market share of the largest pharma company in the world makes up less than 6-7% of the market. That has always been the case, and the reason behind the many mergers and acquisitions in this industry. However, today companies realized that bigger does not necessarily equate to better. There are global biopharma companies with work force less than one tenth of big pharma, yet their market cap rivals their big pharma counterpart. For us, M&As and inorganic growth are key strategic imperatives in our journey forward, and we have gone into several selective bids before towards that direction. We are active in this space and constantly looking for a good fit and opportunity, which will create added value to our portfolio as well as our company.
Joe W. Henein is a senior executive with an accomplished career extending over 30 years in the pharmaceutical industry and covering many geographies including the US,Europe, and the Middle East/Africa. He is a pharmacist by background.