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EF: Looking at the past two years, 2020 being the year of vaccines and diagnostics, 2021 the year of vaccines, what will 2022 be the year of?
MG: 2022 will be the year of embracing a hybrid model of interaction, especially within the medical industry. At some point in 2020 and 2021, we were able to have lots of virtual meetings, now 2022 will be a year of leveraging the past (face-to-face) and present (virtual meetings) and creating a balance between this work environment and digitalization by looking at what is best for our patients.
EF: What was the mission you initially set for yourself on appointment?
MG: Several ones. Biogen was established globally in 1978 however, in Mexico, it was established 3 years ago. The mission I set for myself was to help our company have a better presence in the country and to play its role in the present journey, from accelerating diagnostics to bringing awareness of complex diseases, and also bringing education about our different treatment options. We did have a portfolio that was commercialized through third parties, now we're doing the entire job ourselves and we now have a portfolio with different treatment lines, for different populations with multiple sclerosis.
Biogen is also the pioneer of spinal muscular atrophy treatment in the world and has around 2,000 patients in 50 countries, and we want to maintain that greatness and bring easy diagnosis options and benefits to the Mexican population, especially to older patients who have the biggest challenge of accessing treatment.
EF: What attracted you to join Biogen?
MG: The pipeline and the values. Biogen is specialized in neurological diseases and has a portfolio with Biosimilars. It has an immunology portfolio in the future and a digital portfolio as well. Not a lot of companies are focused or specialized business units focused on the digital side. The values of the company really describe the people, and it's a pioneer in multiple sclerosis, spinal muscular atrophy, and now Alzheimer's.
EF: Is the importance of getting patients back to care a trend you see happening in Mexico and what advice would you give to increase this process?
MG: Definitely yes. If we look at different markets and data in terms of diagnosis, for example, the diagnosis of cancer was reduced by 50% during the COVID period, 40% specifically in Mexico. This meant that most patients went untreated because there were fewer doctors available, the priority was COVID and patients also shied away from coming to hospitals in fear of the pandemic. However, now, we're focusing more on preventative care which reduces the consequences of a disease and its progress if diagnosed early.
Second, our role as a pharmaceutical company is that we have to help the hospitals and government to avail medications to patients. This is one of our priorities and it focuses on supporting the physicians. Third, I would advise bringing options where the patients have both virtual and face-to-face physician meetings by leveraging digital tools.
One in four patients living with Multiple Sclerosis receives a Biogen treatment in the world. In addition, we have an app to support their lifestyle called Cleo, with close to 40,000 patients, caregivers and physician subscriptions to date only in Mexico. In addition, we have digital platforms to address the needs of physicians in different ways: Neurodiem, targeted to neurologists, with independent scientific content on neurology and the latest advancements beyond our portfolios, which shows our commitment to neurosciences; and Biogenlinc, a repository of medical information of different kinds that will become a bidirectional channel of communication between Biogen and the medical community in the near future.
EF: How do you go about creating awareness and education for patients, physicians and society as a whole?
MG: In the health sector or health environment, we have different players. The first is that we need to work together since we all have the objective to serve patients; the government is responsible for establishing rules and regulations; payers to bring resources to treat patients, and physicians to treat them. Patients’ responsibility is to take care of themselves and raise their voices about the importance of society and the healthcare system tending to their needs.
In the case of the pharmaceutical industry, seeing that we touch on different parts of the pharmaceutical environment which are supporting diagnosis, reimbursements, education for our physicians, and creating awareness about different challenges with different stakeholders. We also partner with Patient Associations to raise awareness of diseases among the general public, fulfilling our role in the ecosystem.
EF: How do you determine your partnerships in Biogen?
MG: Our global mission is to see all patients access treatment. As such, we have to create partnerships in a way that supports this vision. Biogen then creates alliances with the government to develop educational programs for physicians at different levels of attention, certified and verified by different institutions. Our vision also includes creating an environment in which product supply is always available and having evidence in hand so that physicians can make treatment decisions based on clinical need. The payers have to create different proposals and understand the value of products that have different models of acquisition so more patients can benefit from treatments. It's an easy and flexible way of looking for partners and as COVID has shown, environments are ever-changing so we have to adapt.
EF: What is your expectation of people in terms of new skillsets needed?
MG: There are skills and competencies that will never change. The first is a positive attitude and being a team player with intellectual curiosity. We need to have people that adapt, take risks and respond well in challenging situations, are innovative and have a biotech mindset. The second skill set we look for is people that can move very fast e.g. moving from a digital environment to a face-to-face meeting. Curious people trying to make a hybrid and using different applications with different technologies in order to work better.
The last one is the skillset of having a sales force that understands what the physician needs, and them being digital product managers who understand how to leverage tools, but at the same time, are close to the market with the physicians, understanding their needs, how the patients are treated, and then bringing tools for them. We have to challenge the way we approach the market and our physicians by discussing our products in a more elaborative, in-depth manner. Providing answers to all the questions they have, be it the efficacy of products, or specific functions, so they have no doubts when getting the products. We want people that understand what the physician needs.
EF: Do you see the Mexican market ready for the digital health that you are driving and innovating?
MG: Many players are going to adopt it because it's going to be easier for them, and it's going to support them. An example, in the past, to get a prescription, physicians had to use paper filling systems where they had to manually search for the patients' details. Now, we have apps that provide all the data one needs and have an exact patient prescription. The general population is going to adopt digital tools based on different topics and this will happen in all markets.
For example, we have an application called LIS, a lumber injection system. One of our treatments is administered via intrathecal injection, so we developed this system in a virtual environment so that physicians can practice their technique at their own pace. 10 years ago, we just had the physical model, now, we have the virtual environment, one which at some point is going to be the reality.
EF: How would you like to be remembered as a leader who has spent the last years in difficult situations like the pandemic, and was even appointed to a new company?
MG: I am a rare disease patient and I have been living with different family members who have different rare diseases, cancers or neurological diseases, and so I want at some point to be remembered for having left every patient with access to treatment. I want to be remembered for bringing change in the health sector and for supporting more patients to have different treatment options.
I want to be remembered by my people as being someone who advocated for their development and for helping them be the best version of themselves by supporting and coaching them.