Read the Conversation
EF: We call 2020 the year of diagnostics and 2021 the year of vaccines. Looking back to 2022, what will it be a year of?
JC: 2022 is about getting back to a new normal. The pandemic taught us many things and helped us break down boundaries. We no longer had to travel to interact with one of our stakeholders physically; instead, we were able to enhance our virtual channels. From a healthcare service perspective, we witnessed how patients could receive medicine and treatment at home. As we continue the shift back to normality, we are trying to return operations to how they were back in 2019, but with these new implementations, this is the new normal.
EF: What specifically attracted you to join Biogen?
JC: The first thing that attracted me to Biogen was its purpose: Biogen is committed to improving the lives of people affected by neurological diseases by developing innovative medicines for conditions where there are limited or no treatment options available. Another factor that drew me in was the possibility of getting back to work with rare diseases; giving back value to society has always been important to me; since I started working on rare diseases, I discovered that I could bring value to society from my day-to-day work. By joining Biogen, I may continue contributing to changing lives through innovation. Not only pharmaceutical innovation but also innovating in how we do things, as they contribute positively to society.
EF: How important is shifting focus to treating non-communicable and rare diseases?
JC: During the pandemic, there was a decrease in diagnoses of rare diseases because the healthcare system focused mainly on covid-19. As patients stayed at home during the pandemic and remained in treatment, we could deep-dive the significance and value of the therapies we offer and compare them with the burden of diseases. All this knowledge should be used to continue accelerating the diagnosis and the development of digital solutions to improve the patient journey further.
EF: How's your portfolio adapting and evolving in Colombia?
JC: With more than 40 years of experience, Biogen works globally to develop potentially life-changing treatments for people affected by severe neurological and neurodegenerative diseases. In Colombia, we are the market leader for both therapeutic areas, being the first company to provide therapeutic options for patients with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), and our portfolio for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) includes the different treatments needed for the patient in the various stages of the disease. We have the opportunity and responsibility to bring transformative treatments to patients. We are deeply committed to making the ongoing investment in the science and research needed to create innovative therapies.
EF: Is the product pipeline by Biogen going to have a significant impact on Colombia?
JC: For the main challenges that have been identified in relation to Rare Diseases, we have provided from the innovative industry concrete solutions: more and better research and innovation in under-addressed diseases, diagnostic support programs for health systems, medical education, and collaborative work with organizations interested in these issues. Biogen plans to advance innovative therapies for patients through the work of its world-class researchers and the strength of its global network of collaborators. Right now, we are very excited about the fact that we are in the development of drugs for the treatment of conditions like Alzheimer, which will be a game-changer in the market. We are also working on treatments for conditions like post-partum and major depression, a silent condition that is rarely discussed and requires more attention, which is why it’s a priority in our pipeline.
EF: What's the importance of partnerships, and what benefits do they bring?
JC: The major challenge in our healthcare system is that the interaction of the actors is very fragmented; there is no alignment in the incentives we have across the value chain between all the different players. It is important to improve collaboration to align objectives in favour of the patient, and at Biogen, we are looking for this kind of partnership.
There are many examples of joint work in which each actor does his part but, at the same time, finds ways to articulate actions to make everyone's mission more effective. In the case of pharmaceutical companies, we develop innovative drugs for conditions for which the available treatment options are limited or nonexistent, contributing to people's quality of life. On the other hand, we promote the development of programs to strengthen the training processes, hand in hand with governmental entities for the proper use of treatments and the appropriate follow-up of patients. Another example is related to data, there are many patient data spread across the healthcare ecosystem, and it is not always used correctly. Right now, we are exploring alternatives to promote the use of artificial intelligence to provide a diagnosis for patients faster and more effectively; it’s also about supporting the healthcare ecosystem actors in making the right decision and having the patient at the centre of everything. EF: Biogen has identified several health clusters; how might this impact Colombia?
JC: By being close to different actors within the healthcare ecosystem, we identified gaps and unmet needs that we want to address by developing new solutions. For example, in Colombia, we have recently launched a service from Biogen to neurology healthcare professionals that consists of an online platform called Neurodiem that provides independent, up-to-date, and scientifically validated content on the latest developments in neurology. Another example is the development of applications to support physiotherapy at home, where patients can check which exercises will be helpful for them and how to do them on their own.
EF: How can we use artificial intelligence to accelerate personalized treatment?
JC: Colombia has a very fragmented healthcare system focused mainly on treating symptoms and diseases in a late state; because of this, it is common that the patient journey, for those with a rare disease, is a long one. Healthcare actors cannot always connect the dots and identify symptoms with the root cause. We need to use artificial intelligence and run proper algorithms that can accurately trace the patient’s history data so that they can be referred to a specialist and diagnosed accordingly. In areas such as this, we must refocus the healthcare system to benefit the patients.
EF: How do you rate the adoption of Artificial Intelligence among physicians?
JC: The main challenge is identifying tech-savvy physicians more open to exploring new things or ways to obtain results. As a company, we need to clearly segment the doctors by behavioural attributes, including their technology adoption. Every year, we have a virtual Latin America event called NS Innovation, aiming to discuss innovation across neurology and neuroscience; artificial intelligence is also included as a hot topic.
EF: What measures do you take to promote an innovative mindset in Colombia?
JC: At Biogen, we have the opportunity and responsibility to bring transformative treatments to patients. We are deeply committed to making the ongoing investment in the science and research needed to create innovative therapies. But innovation is not only about creating new products but also about finding new ways to do things at the right moment with the right purpose. We promote our teams and challenge them to explore new ways because it's the avenue to learning and acquiring new knowledge and capabilities. We encourage a culture of innovation and invite employees to offer solutions to overcome company challenges. At Biogen, we are committed to building on our culture of inclusion and belonging that also favours this innovative mindset.
EF: What are your proudest achievements and their impact on the people of Colombia?
JC: At Biogen, we do not give up in the face of challenges and strive to innovate in everything we do. In the past, when there were no therapeutic options for patients with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) in Colombia, at the onset of symptoms, the progression of the disease translated into the deterioration of health and poor life quality. Since 2018 we started providing a treatment option to patients in Colombia, creating a new perspective that positively impacts their lives. I feel very proud to be a part of game change biotech company like Biogen.
EF: What achievement will you celebrate at the year's end?
JC: Staying faithful and committed to our purpose. I am joyful by having the opportunity of leading my team and overcome market challenges, fulfilling our mandate to transform lives. Every day we face challenges, especially due to financial restrictions in the health system that translate into access barriers throughout the entire health value chain—our commitment to intervene in these barriers and access our treatment effectively. Day by day, we show our dedication to creating a better scenario for the future.
EF: Do you have any message for our readers in Bloomberg Business Week?
JC: In this uncertain period, regardless of the new healthcare ecosystem designed by the government, we must fight to maintain what wors and benefits patients and users in the healthcare system. There are many examples of what truly works: centres of excellence and integrated care networks for rare diseases, the treatment pathway for rare diseases being promoted by different actors, comprehensive disease management, and health risk management programs
We need to continue creating networks and collaboration between actors, to continue strengthening and creating value within the healthcare ecosystem.