Read the Conversation

EF: What attracted you to this new challenge of healthcare innovation in Mexico?   

GB: The key aspects that drew me to the health industry are its social impact and global reach. The healthcare industry is present during important moments in people's lives. When we or someone we care about is undergoing medical treatment, improving the patient experience in those moments is key. The globality of the industry is also interesting to me; the treatments we produce and the advancements we promote can have a global impact. I wanted to be part of an industry with global repercussions, and I was attracted to the values of this organization and the concept of focusing on patient outcomes. Takeda´s Innovation Capability Centers are a global network; our company has data and digital as a central aspect of its strategy. We are building a set of Centers to develop a series of new technological and transformational resources. We plan to continue to grow these digital capabilities within the organization to be adequately prepared in the future. 

GV: I was attracted to the long-term vision of Takeda. There is a clear message from the top of the organization that technology is one of the key pillars for the evolution of the company, and that makes it incredibly attractive to new partners. The digital transformation is changing the biopharmaceutical industry in Latin America, and we are operating in a key moment of this transition.  

EF: Why is Mexico such an attractive market to establish an ICC?  

GB: Mexico is strategic in large part because of its proximity to the United States. This is followed by two key aspects of human capital. The first is that there is a large population of people who can speak English relatively fluently, which enables us to become a global center of technological capabilities. The second aspect of human resources is the availability of talent and the rapid pace of adoption of digital skills among the workforce. There is a determination to continuously learn, even for people at midlevel in their careers. We have people who come from other industries but who bring their digital capabilities with them; we leverage that knowledge and embed it into our work. From the early days of the decision to create the ICC, we started to reach out to the players in academia, consulting, and technology, and it is impressive to see the level of interest and number of initiatives across the ecosystem; everyone is open to finding common points of collaboration. 

GV: The quality of professionals from Mexico has been recognized by a wide variety of actors since the late 90s. From the early days of Takeda, we have had the responsibility of working within many different areas, among these complying with FDA requirements and putting digital infrastructure in place for all of Latin America. This demonstrates the quality of the professionals that we have in Mexico, and that was taken into account when deciding where to put the Latin American ICC. When we open these centers, one of the important variables is the digital transformation innovation ecosystem, where we connect with different actors, universities, government, and other companies to start promoting conversation and innovation and putting in place different types of programs with each of these actors. 

EF: Do you have any examples of how you are leveraging common spaces with stakeholders to advance the ICC and bring innovation to Mexico City? 

GB: We are in the process of creating these connections in Mexico, but there are examples of what Takeda has done in other regions of the world. Boston has been a key player in the Takeda partnerships because it is a city that is very active in terms of health and science. Takeda has an artificial intelligence collaboration with MIT; they have a series of  AI research projects from image to speech analysis. Our ICC in Bratislava is working on robotic process automation and digitization across our value chain.  

EF: Companies now have a physical and a digital footprint and must find the balance between those two aspects. Can you tell us what it really means to be a digital pharmaceutical company?  

GB: Digital transformation is a business strategy that comes from the top level of the corporate vision. It goes beyond technology and includes many human aspects to ensure the value that digital transformation can have for any type of company. In the ICCs, we have a combination of capabilities; we are trying to be a muscle that can adapt to coming challenges. Technologies come and go, and there will always be new upcoming technology. You don’t build your strategy around a specific technology; what you do is create a new way of work, a new set of capabilities, mindsets, and ways of working within the organization.  

In the ICCs, we are organized in chapters because we believe in agility as a new mechanism of work that allows operational business units to work more closely with technological units until that barrier ceases to exist and projects are developed by multidisciplinary teams. We also believe in the iterative nature of technology. We seek to go beyond projects; we aim to develop value streams in direct response to the needs of our people, patients, and planet. We work both to improve existing processes and to create innovative experiencesTechnological is not an end but a very important enabler of transformation.  

Humans are the beginning and the end of any digital transformation. We need to ensure that change is properly managed. One of the chapters that we have is focused on change management. We also have external-facing chapters that are transforming our omnichannel interactions with personalization and proactive solutions for medical professionals as well as the patients who engage with our treatments and provide feedback.  

EF: How does Taketa plan to attract and retain the best of the talent in the field?  

GB: The value proposition that we have for the talent that will work for us is very complete. There are three principal activities that we are conducting during the setup phase of the ICC; the first one is to raise awareness and inform the market of our project and avenues to collaborate. Takeda has a long trajectory and established brand in the pharmaceutical industry worldwide and is actively driving biotech innovation. When you think about digital capability building, we are in the process of positioning our in-house capabilities and attracting relevant talent. This involves bringing an entirely new set of roles into the business, including data engineers, designers, software developers, and transformation managers, and applying digital aspects to marketing, manufacturing, and supply chain. We are bringing more than 250 diverse talents into the organization.  

The second thing is approaching academia and universities to conduct joint forums and initiatives to attract recent graduates and alumni networks interested in digital transformation and that share our vision of better health and a brighter future for the world as well as our values.  

The third pillar is completing the construction of our center, including spaces specially designed for co-creation, design thinking, digital product development, and collaboration with the ecosystem.  

We want the people who work with us to be very proud Of the initiatives we develop. We believe in continuous learning and will invest in the constant training of all of our members.  

EF: In 10 years, how do you want this initiative to impact the people around you and the city and region in which you are embedded? 

GB: The ICC is at the intersection of technologies and agile ways of work, transforming experiences inside Takeda and for our patients. It is an important opportunity to showcase Mexican talent to the world through a wide variety of global initiatives. I would like to be remembered as a person who helped Takeda to steer the creation of transformational capabilities and mindset, opening up opportunities for  +250 local people and being involved in amazing projects that Takeda has around the world. Another key aspect to which I am contributing is our diversity and inclusion. Our company is walking the talk. I have the great fortune of leading the ICC as a woman, but I’m not the only one. The head of our manufacturing area in Mexico is also a woman and a large percentage of the commercial and pharmaceutical local areas have female leadership. We are promoting diversity sustainability, and we will maintain this vision for our new staff at the ICC. 

GV: Sometimes, in the pharmaceutical industry, it is difficult to see the immediate outcome of your work. When you see how your work is impacting the lives of the patients, it changes your perspective. The pharmaceutical industry has invested a lot in rare diseases, which is the piece that is truly helping to find cures and how you can see the impact of our work in society. It’s easier now than it was 15 years ago to see how your work is impacting the patients, and I see how these technologies are helping to improve the quality of life.  

At a certain point in your career, you start to look at how you can give back to your country, and this is an incredible opportunity to do that. This is a global center, and we are going to impact the lives of patients around the world. The issue of diversity, equity, and inclusion is top of mind, and in the pharma industry especially, we are investing a lot. Diversity is a reality in Takeda, Mexico, and the ICC. We are working with an association that helps women develop their careers in tech, and that is the key for me.  

EF: Do you have any final message for our readers?  

GV: It doesn’t matter what industry you are a part of; collaboration across sectors has to be a part of the executive vision. Creating the environment and the value proposition is key for future generations. Even the design of our workspace is based on our long-term thinking about how future generations will work. It requires a long-term vision and needs to be a part of the executive agenda; it involves change management and has been part of our strategic vision for years. Everyone in the company is part of this journey. 

GB: The ethical side of the new technologies is also key. Data and analytics are the precursors to AI, and we think deeply about the ethical implications of how we capture, store, cleanse, utilize, and apply data. This is a key component from the design to the operations of our digital assets.  

November 2023