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EF: What do you think 2022 will be the year of?
FV: This year will be the year of recovery since attention has been on COVID for the past two years. Patients have now adjusted to digital solutions, such as telemedicine when applicable. Finding the right balance between virtual and physical care is important now that things are going back to pre-COVID normalcy. Supply chain constraint is currently an issue globally. Companies want to go beyond satisfying their clients, so they get supplies. The role of digitalization has been evolving in the medical industry and is something critical. The industry has invested more into digitalization, and it is fascinating to see us catching up.
EF: Can you elaborate on the role Thermo Fisher had during the pandemic?
FV: We are proud of being a part of the solution from multiple angles. Initially, we were involved in characterizing the virus to start understanding it through our microscopy solutions. We have provided much of the sample extraction and preparation tools to start analyzing viruses’ samples. We have then collaborated with different institutions and officials developing and ultimately manufacturing PCR test kits for roughly 50% of the global demands for the gold standard diagnostic solution. Throughout the waves and new strains, we were also there supporting the identification of virus mutations through our sequencing solutions. Ultimately, we were very active in partnering with providers across the globe to develop, scale, and store vaccines respectively through our clinical trials, bioproduction, and laboratory products. Not to mention the massive scale increase in a short period of time that society expected from providers like Thermo Fisher - all of the efforts are justified when it's about putting our mission in action. We are proud of being able to support society in combating the pandemic.
EF: What advice would you give business leaders to address supply chain constraints?
FV: Business leaders must make better strategic plans and find alternative solutions to the constraints. The pandemic has taught us to plan for product demand and customer acquisition. To anticipate the needs and demands of our customers, we invested a lot in our commercial teams. Moving forward, we need to change the way we design and support to withstand arising issues.
If we look at the issue from a different perspective, we will find alternative solutions. An example of an alternative solution is making the manufacturing process more straightforward. Making product manufacturing easier would reduce the constraints on all stakeholders: multi-purpose products, new product introduction, and a mindset and product design change. We must be practical, build pipelines with more extensive amenities, and solve the product design change issue. There are still a few challenges, but we hope things will improve in 2022.
EF: What relevance does Mexico have for Thermo Fisher?
FV: We are interested in and have invested heavily in Mexico, which has grown our footprint. We currently have more than 5,000 employees and a few manufacturing plants here. We are coming from lab equipment and shifting to technology development. We advocate for science development, so we invested in and built an Information Technology Center of Excellence. We are in the process of designing new products and testing new software for data science because we believe it is the future.
EF: Do you think science and technology development is a strategic goal for Thermo Fisher?
FV: Absolutely. We invest globally something close to USD 1,4 Bi in innovative technologies across our portfolio and segments we serve. To improve patient outcomes, providers like us need to keep investing heavily and collaborating with different stakeholders to enable state of the art technology to our customers so it ultimately reaches the broad population. Also, democratization and accessibility are highly valuable, which is why we are looking for ways to better manage technology from a research and development perspective and also make it more affordable. Molecular diagnostic is a field that is still very expensive. An example is genome sequencing; it is beneficial for development yet costly. As the life sciences continue to become more democratized, we are aiming to make developmental technology accessible to the entire population
EF: What do you think is the role of the health care infrastructure in developing Mexico?
FV: The pandemic challenged the preventative approach we had for healthcare. Globally, management of the vaccines and COVID-19 proved to be a challenge. Improving artificial intelligence, genomics, digital medicine, and role optics will help us stop looking for developing technology that supports current technology. We need to leverage the economic infrastructure. There could be faster development if there is a partnership between the public and private sectors.
EF: What skill set do you look at when hiring someone, and how are you attracting talent?
FV: Talent is going to be a critical differentiator in the market. Covid-19 showed us how priorities could change every day. The skills we look for include flexibility, resilience, creativity, and curiosity. That is why we need flexible people that can adapt to change. People who are creative and curious to learn about new things can grow and improve tremendously. Many moving factors can affect how people work, so we want resilient people. Experience and educational background are important aspects, but soft skills are the primary consideration factor now and I believe they will be even more critical in the future. Working virtually may be a new reality, but this may differ depending on the field and job scope. To hire top talents, employers must be flexible as well. Talented people can choose a company based on the same factors, so we have allowed digital transformation to take place in our company. We have become more creative and productive.
EF: How do you keep your team engaged?
FV: We align strategies and define our main priorities. This helps us focus on the essential things. An outline helps clarify and motivate people to complete their tasks. We have conscientious exercises where we define our priorities. It is something we learned to do to avoid carrying out unnecessary tasks. That is why striking prioritization is vital.
We also created flexibility around how we work. We created a “meeting-less” day of the week, so people can think, create and also put tasks up to speed. Bringing awareness helped our teams feel connected and a part of something bigger. A clear vision and mission give meaning to the work we do, why we do it, and the direction we want to go. We help our employees with their research and discovery to solve the most challenging problems. It is very motivating even for me.
EF: Is the market in Mexico shifting towards diagnostics, and is it taking a more critical role?
FV: The future of healthcare is diagnostics. We must have the capabilities to perform better diagnostics. The key to success is to create a strong portfolio where innovation is the main driving force. Many companies are investing in product-filled services. The central discussion among healthcare stakeholders is on getting more innovative diagnostics in the portfolio and on managing conditions better. Throughout the pandemic, we learned to distribute our work, and we achieved many things deemed virtually impossible.
It is hard to upgrade basic science to applied science because development is needed to leverage innovation and solve specific problems. Diagnostics need to be sustainable, repeatable, and readily available. We need to keep investing, innovating, and creating new products with a distinct approach.
We must manage the data. We need to educate more and more people to understand the value of data and can translate it into outcomes for companies and physicians. Bioinformatics is an example of how data can be translated into outcomes for physicians.
EF: Can you elaborate on the evolution of your product portfolio and its future trends.
FV: As I've said, innovation is at the core of our values. But we also grow consistently inorganically, incorporating companies and technologies that allow synergies and ultimately our customers to see us as a complete solution provider. Our product portfolio combines instruments to reagents, from laboratory basic and everyday products to robust DNA sequencers and electronic microscopes. And several tests, especially within clinical diagnostics and immunodiagnostics environments. The evolution of devices focuses on reliability, robustness and often scale gain. Serviceability is vital right now. It is the ability to service a machine. It was hard to service machines in the past because the technology was limited, and the people who knew how to service the machines were few. Today, technology has evolved so much that it has become easier to service machines.
Our portfolio has evolved as we get into biotech and pharma segments. And it’s a frequent evolution, again reinforcing our commitment to R&D.
EF: What recommendation would you give to enhance the collaboration between the public and private sectors?
FV: We need to find a suitable business model for the country. There are a lot of different business models, and that is why collaborations struggle. We need to find the best way of doing things by finding a suitable model. When projects are entrepreneur-driven, they are easier to handle. It is better to do smaller projects to get more companies involved and build more confidence. It is crucial to find and define a suitable business model.
We need to accelerate these collaborations. Adding academies is vital because they bring knowledge to the table. It is a combination that would build a more robust partnership. In building better alliances, we must avoid creating oversized loads for other stakeholders, lest they feel they are not getting enough from the collaboration.
EF: Let's fast forward five years from now; what would you like to be remembered for as a leader?
FV: I want to be remembered as being consistent in planning, humane, and insightful. When making a plan as a leader, you need to be moderate. Most importantly, I want to be remembered for being compassionate and human. During the pandemic, I considered the human factor and cared for people. Covid-19 showed us how vulnerable we were on this. We learned to value the things that we took for granted.