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EF: Could you elaborate on Roche Polska and its footprint?
IV: At Roche in Poland, we have a unique opportunity to work and create solutions for healthcare, looking much more broadly than just from the perspective of a provider of medical products and services. In our country, there are interdisciplinary teams in the areas of pharmacy, diagnostics, diabetes care, clinical trials, and global procurement, but in Poland is located also our largest unit, the international IT research and development center. Our research and development center is based in Warsaw and Poznań and boasts more than 600 employees. We're one of three such centers worldwide, with the others in Kuala Lumpur and Canada. We've developed over 20 apps and various support systems. Roche Polska employs over 800 people, more than 1000 when you include diagnostics and diabetes. Additionally, we have around 5,000 contractors on standby to support our research and development team. We're proud of our presence in Poland and are consolidating to one location in Warsaw by the beginning of next year.
Last year, we invested more than 1.6 billion Polish Zloty, almost double what we earned from reimbursements and product sales. This substantial investment underscores our commitment to improving health possibilities for our citizens and the Polish economy and our serious engagement in creating solutions with the government and other stakeholders.
EF: Could you elaborate on which therapeutic areas are the focus in Poland?
IV: Roche used to focus on oncology primarily, but now we're diversifying our portfolio. In the past, our company was recognized mainly because of our oncology portfolio, which in many areas changed the paradigm of treatment. While oncology remains a strong focus, we're also expanding into neurology, neuroscience, and rare diseases In Poland, we're making significant strides in multiple sclerosis, with our products now reimbursed for all registered indications.
We're also involved in spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and related therapies, which are showing promise and hope. One of the main challenges in Poland is late product reimbursement, the average from the W.A.I.T. report shows it’s almost 844 days, while German patients wait only 133 days. We recently achieved a reimbursement in just 400 days for one of our neuroscience products, which we're very proud of. In addition to neurology, we're working on ophthalmology, hoping to make our products available to Polish patients. Roche is no longer just an oncology company; we're branching into multiple other areas.
We’re excited about participating in the E-Health hackathon created for young and creative people. We were among the first companies to join last year because we believe in how healthcare should work – through public-private partnerships. In Poland, trust is a key issue in such collaborations. We're eager to participate and show what true partnership means. I dream that one day, we won't have to talk about public-private partnerships: it'll just be partnerships. Healthcare challenges can only be solved in collaboration; all stakeholders must work together. COVID-19 boosted some blocks, but now the momentum is slowing down. As Roche and individuals, we must find ways to rekindle that spirit.
The Ministry of Health chose the hackathon topics, building on last year's cardiology focus. Cardiovascular diseases are still one of the leading causes of death among Poles. Interestingly, Roche is diving into cardiology this year. The collaboration involves cooperation between Roche, the Ministry of Health, and the medical research community. This marks our second successful collaboration with the E-Health Center and the Ministry of Health.
In November, a new reimbursement law will be enacted, although many details remain uncertain. Reimbursements, which used to happen four times a year, would be reduced to three times a year starting next year.
EF: Could you elaborate on the goals of the Hackathon?
IV: One of the goals of organizing the hackathon is to address the data challenge in Poland's healthcare. Currently, we need more data sharing, which hinders the system. Sharing data can benefit patients by facilitating better treatment solutions and pathways. Properly utilizing data through training can significantly enhance healthcare outcomes for the entire system.
We've engaged in extensive discussions with the Ministry of Health, the Department of Health, and the Medical Research Agency regarding innovation and the importance of data sharing. During our meeting in July, the discussion underscored the critical role of data in developing effective projects for patient well-being.
In Poland, we're actively collecting vast healthcare data, positioning ourselves ahead of certain Western systems. Remarkably, nearly 18 million individuals are covered under the Internet patient scheme. While we may face challenges, this vast data pool is valuable. It's a journey to find the best way forward. Poland's experience with a significant population can provide valuable insights when considering the European health data space. Having worked with such a substantial dataset, we can contribute to shaping a more comprehensive European healthcare approach.
EF: How does data enhance and support your work at Roche Polska?
IV: In our data journey, we've initiated a special project called the Similar Case Database for lung cancer patients. We're collaborating with five leading hospitals to compile diverse data in electronic form. The goal is to leverage artificial intelligence to identify similar cases and improve treatment approaches. Another significant project is V4, which is in progress. We've also been actively establishing partnerships. Roche partnered with the National Oncology Center- in Warsaw in 2017 to create Poland's first Early Phase Research Centre. More recently, we collaborated with Poznan University to launch the first data science postgraduate program. We co-create a developing program for students - BioTech Leaders Academy - in cooperation with Warsaw University Incubator
We've also sought grants from institutions like the Warsaw Health Innovation Hub, which plays a pivotal role. These collaborations emphasize the importance of data in our work. For instance, we've developed 21 apps in Poland, three of which are widely recognized. "Floodlight" aids multiple sclerosis patients by tracking their condition between doctor visits. "My Vision Track" is designed for ophthalmology, reflecting our entry into the field, and "mySugr" continually monitors blood sugar levels for diabetes management. These apps have already made a positive impact, and our goal is to integrate them into a comprehensive ecosystem in the future.
EF: What challenges and opportunities arise from collaborating as pharmaceutical innovators with similar interests in Poland?
IV: We always face various challenges, and one key challenge is defining a common goal that we can collectively work towards. We take the lead and focus on what we believe can impact patients' lives. We're venturing into home delivery and care, collaborating with select companies. We've received confirmation from six companies, which is a positive step. We aim to keep this group small and focused, around six to eight companies, to ensure effective collaboration while maintaining trust within the industry. This way, we hope to build something impactful and mutually beneficial. This is a glimpse into our recent efforts to engage with like-minded organizations and drive positive change.
Roche has played a pivotal role in various critical healthcare topics, including creating an idea of new medical funds three years ago. In collaboration with other companies, this initiative aimed to create specialized forms of cancer treatment personalized for each patient. The project received substantial support, with around 1 billion from the Polish budget allocated towards innovation in cancer treatment and related areas. This funding significantly eased the finding of solutions and financing of new medicines, leading to successful outcomes.
IV: Indeed, the 400-day success story is connected to this initiative. Poland achieved a significant milestone by being the third country globally, after Switzerland and Germany, to secure reimbursement for treatment for neuromyelitis Optica spectrum disorder, a rare autoimmune disease. Roche Poland is a pioneer in the Polish market, boasting a strong reputation. This reputation facilitated smooth project launches, such as the home care initiative, where collaboration with eager companies for aspects like home delivery was readily achieved.
Another significant initiative is the project aiming for 6-7% GDP allocation for health spending, which was initiated a decade ago. It's a critical effort to advocate for increased healthcare investment. This project has evolved, particularly focusing on financial system transparency, and facilitating conversations with stakeholders about healthcare financing. We strive for greater transparency to enhance citizens' understanding of the healthcare system for a more informed future.
Poland serves as Roche's innovation hub, driving progress in the local market. We conduct clinical trials, harness data from 18 million people, promote app interoperability, and possess thriving IT research and development units.
EF: How do you assess Poland’s potential to become a European innovation hub for the Roche Global Group?
IV: To remain globally attractive, stability in legislation is crucial. Predictability in what we can expect is key for competitiveness, and Poland needs to focus on enhancing this stability. Despite challenges like inflation, our well-educated workforce and expertise are strong assets. We're particularly renowned for our IT, clinical trials, and procurement capabilities, providing a solid foundation to draw more global attention and opportunities for advancement.
EF: How do you position Roche to attract talent and create a company culture in Roche Polska?
IV: If I were to pitch investing in Poland, I'd highlight the strong probability of substantial returns. Our track record and history speak volumes about what can be achieved here. Additionally, our capable workforce and the scalability of our 38 million population make Poland an appealing destination. Investors are attracted, especially due to the favorable pricing we offer in Poland, among the lowest globally, which showcases our commitment to Polish patients. Poland also plays a pivotal role in clinical trials, contributing to progress in multiple healthcare domains.
Regarding employee attraction, we're diligently enhancing our branding. It's not just about salaries but also about fostering a positive work environment. I value trust, honesty, and open discussions with employees. A smile on our employees' faces and regular meetings with various staff members, where we discuss multiple topics, fuel my drive to ensure a happy and motivated workforce.
Our flexible location policy enables employees to work from anywhere in the European Union for up to three months or up to 10 days from other locations if their schedules allow.
I'd like to highlight two unique initiatives in building our brand and attracting talent. Firstly, we began a collaboration last year with 19-year-olds through a mentorship program on a specific case. It has been a rewarding experience. Secondly, we launched the second edition of the Destination IT program in cooperation with the "Working Mom Foundation" in October. This initiative helps moms from other industries transition into IT through mentorship. It's a distinctive program, and from the first edition, we've already welcomed three young mothers as employees who decided to join Roche.
EF: What will be the key points of your speech for Roche Polska’s 30th anniversary next year, and what will you tell your workers when you observe these important milestones?
IV: Next year marks a significant celebration for Roche Polska: 30 years overall, 25 years of Clinical Trials, 20 years in IT, and a decade in diabetes. The official office opening is scheduled for March, graced by our new CEO, Thomas. Roche's presence in Poland spans over 120 years, a rich history we're proud of. The key to surviving and thriving for 30 years is simple: find joy in what you do and surround yourself with passionate individuals committed to bettering patients' lives. Life is beautiful when we keep it simple. My purpose is to contribute to the happiness of those around me unconditionally. Being a source of joy is what keeps me fulfilled day after day.