Read the Conversation

EF:  You come from a background that’s not in the pharmaceutical industry. What attracted you to this sector in the first place?

DG: Initially, I was working in London within investment banking and then at Cummins, a great company in the heavy industry sector. However, I was looking for something a little more exciting and innovative.  The speed of innovation and the opportunity to make a difference was really appealing, so when the chance presented itself, it was really an easy choice.   

EF: You were appointed General Manager at Roche 3 years ago. What was the mission you were given back then?

DG: My mission was to transform the organization to an agile, externally focused business with a focus on delivering better outcomes, for more patients, at a faster rate. As a company, we are in a time of extreme change. Multiple new innovative medicines in our portfolio are coming to market while at the same time, new competition is entering on large brands. In combination with an evolving environment moving towards Universal Healthcare, we need to change how we work to ensure our efforts are directed where they can make the most significant impact.

EF: How is Roche performing today? 

DG: Roche Pharma is performing exceptionally well. Globally, Roche has one of the most robust pipelines of new molecules around which not only complement our traditional strengths in Oncology, but also sees us moving into new therapeutic areas in Neurology and Rare Diseases. We are proud to have been able to consistently bring new molecules to the market that shifts the standard of care. Locally, our regulatory agency South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA), have made great strides in improving the regulatory approval timelines and tackling the backlog of medicines and we have been able to bring new drugs in Breast Cancer such as Perjeta and Kadcyla, as well as in Haemophilia A with Hemlibra. Our aim is to ensure that we can have broad and fast access to all patients in need of these life saving medicines. By driving enhanced access and ensuring more patients are able to benefit from our medicines, we have seen substantial growth over the last 3 years and expect 2019 to be our best year yet in South Africa.

EF: What is Roche’s footprint in terms of its strategy, sense of the business, and relative importance to the overall organization? 

DG: Although Southern Africa may form only a relatively small component of the global business size, Roche will have been in South Africa for 72 years this year, which is a testament to the commitment the company has to the people of this country and Africa as a whole. We believe that no matter where you live, you deserve to be treated with the best in class medicine and our aim is to work with the health systems to be able to achieve this. With the combined strength of Pharma, Diagnostics, and Diabetes care, we are able to bring solutions to the market that ensure patients are accurately diagnosed and receive the right treatment. This companion diagnostic business is key to our strength in ensuring we reach patients with our medicines. 

EF: As big investors in R&D, could you share any other examples of Roche’s investments beyond medication?

DG: Although Roche is the biggest global investor in R&D with more than $11billion directed annually,  we believe that we should also contribute to the communities that we operate in and ensure we are contributing to making a better world for us all to live in. As a result of many initiatives, hard work, and investment, Roche has been recognized as the World’s Most Sustainable healthcare company for 10 years in a row. Locally, this is no different and a great example amongst many is that of the Phelophepa Train – meaning the Train of Hope. 2019 marks 25 years of collaboration between Roche and Transnet to ensure primary healthcare and disease awareness are brought to remote communities that otherwise do not have access to such facilities. Our latest goal is to bring modernization to the train through the use of technology.

EF: Roche has been very active on acquisitions, how does this portfolio translate into what can be done here?

DG: Our objective here in Southern Africa is consistent with that globally- we want to ensure better outcomes for more patients, faster. Through our global R&D investments and acquisitions, Roche is leading the way to Personalized Healthcare with the aim of ensuring that every patient is able to receive a treatment that best suits them and in the process, decreasing the cost to the healthcare system overall. Gene sequencing, big data, Immunotherapies and Gene Therapies are all part of this mission. Our aim is to ensure that the same innovation that is brought to markets around the world also reaches the patients here in Southern Africa. We may have some additional challenges but these can be overcome through productive dialogue and collaboration, a globally respected trait of this part of the world.

EF: Can you share some of Roche’s triple bottom line initiatives?

DG:  We are celebrating our 25th anniversary with the Phelophepa Train; we can’t find another example of such a long running public-private partnership in South Africa. We recently signed the renewal of the contract for another 5 years and I am sure we will continue to do so in the future. The Phelophepa healthcare train has made a massive difference to rural communities in South Africa because it is able to bring healthcare to people who otherwise wouldn’t get it or would have to travel long distances to get to doctors or nurses. This is just one example of how we are making a difference to the lives of people in South Africa. Through doing responsible business and committing ourselves to sustainability goals, we believe we can make an even more significant impact for patients and communities we operate in.

EF: Do you think that executives of other industrial sectors realize the complexity of healthcare?

DG: I would doubt it. There are many players and stakeholders involved and the journey to bringing medicines to the market is extremely complex with no two being the same. It is always important to remember that at the end of it, there is a patient waiting in need of a medicine that can cure or significantly improve their quality of life. The responsibility is immense. This is a great motivator for all of the people who work in the industry and I find this aspect greatly rewarding.

EF: Any final message you would like to add about Roche SA? 

DG: Roche is committed to the African markets and sees opportunity and responsibility in developing our Health Systems together with governments, payers, physicians and patient organizations amongst many others. Along with these role players and the broader industry, we will be able to dramatically improve how diseases are diagnosed and treated, thus ensuring that patients across the continent continue to benefit from modern innovative medicines. 

October 2019
South Africa