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EF: What are your priorities, and what are you working on for 2024? 

ML: We've experienced many changes over the past year, with things speeding up and moving faster. We had an incredible end to last year, especially in the previous two quarters, and have seen global and local growth in South Africa. This year's main goal is to expand our MRI portfolio in South Africa, which aligns with our global strategy. I've received approval to register the new MRI macrocyclic gadolinium product here. It's already launched in the US and Europe and promises to be a game changer for the industry. Continuing to grow our X-ray portfolio, which constitutes 80% of our business, remains crucial. We must ensure a reliable supply, avoid backorders, and deliver on time. We've made significant progress with the Intrasense platform we acquired last year regarding the interventional market. The platform received European approval for some algorithms, which will soon be available in South Africa. There's a renewed focus on interventional imaging, especially in vascular embolization, which will drive growth through 2025 and beyond. We've set key strategic objectives for this year, and we have a lot of work ahead. 

EF: How do you balance the need to bring innovation with the need for practical, effective solutions in South Africa?  

ML: I believe we should view our entire portfolio more holistically rather than working in silos. When introducing innovations, partnering with companies with similar interests or treatment areas can provide additional support in the market. For example, in diagnosing prostate cancer, which is the second most common cancer among men, MRI is crucial for early detection and follow-up. With our established MRI network in South Africa, we can leverage this to introduce artificial intelligence solutions into radiology. This will be key to bringing innovations to the country. Building strong relationships is also crucial. We've welcomed new employees and established key relationships in certain areas that will support our strategic growth. Education is crucial, too; people need to understand how these new AI algorithms can improve their workflow. Without this understanding, it will be challenging to integrate these innovations into our portfolio and the broader market. 

EF: What strategies do you use to educate the team and physicians on the latest trends and innovations? And how can you make physicians trust this new technology? 

ML: We collaborate with the education team, which is essential for our growth. Being small and agile, we must move together to achieve our goals. The education team includes incredibly knowledgeable scientific individuals who create webinars for local radiologists, practitioners, radiographers, and healthcare professionals. These webinars help keep them informed about the latest innovations in radiology. While we may not have all the experts in-house in South Africa, our global team provides essential support. Collaborating from an international perspective is key to our success. We also have a medical scientific expert in South Africa who helps build trust with healthcare professionals by leveraging her expertise. 

Understanding our products and distinguishing them from competitors is crucial. We've focused on training for ourselves and others to ensure we know the facts and can effectively communicate the benefits of our products. This training has been a priority over the past year, and we've spent much time gathering information from experts worldwide. Sharing knowledge and building trust are essential. When healthcare professionals see that our products deliver as promised, trust and strong relationships naturally follow. 

EF: What are the key takeaways from your visit to your Headquarters in France? 

ML: Our team gathering was incredibly energizing and positive as we engaged with hundreds of leaders from around the globe. We discussed strategies and innovations, witnessing exciting collaborations and partnerships forming within the company. Seeing how we're leading innovation in diagnostic imaging is truly inspiring. One notable partnership was formed on May 22nd with Nuclidium, which specializes in copper-based radiopharmaceuticals for diagnostics and therapeutics. This partnership opens doors for providing comprehensive and precise cancer treatments, aiming for better patient outcomes. 

It is satisfying to see our commitment to research and development paying off. We're proud to be among the first to introduce such imaging products since the 90s. Additionally, progress with Intrasense and the approval of CE certification for their platforms signify a step forward in early detection. This aligns with our mission for better patient care. Our progress across various fronts, from innovation to operational excellence, fills us with excitement and motivation. Everyone is dedicated to the company's success, with a clear direction and focus on our goals. 

EF: How do you see the adoption of AI in diagnostics in preventive care advancing in South Africa, and at what stage is it compared to the rest of the world? 

ML: Considering South Africa's status as a developing country, adopting new technologies may take some time. While this presents challenges, there are also opportunities. Although we have big modalities that already incorporate AI, there's potential to expand its use. It's crucial to structure proposals that demonstrate the benefits to healthcare professionals. We must await European approval before introducing new technologies in South Africa. There's limited infrastructure and legislation around artificial intelligence in South Africa. Given other healthcare priorities, progress in this area may be slow. Identifying key sites where trust relationships are established could facilitate adoption. Partnerships with local startup companies specializing in AI platforms could enhance success. Some colleagues have shared exciting projects involving AI in healthcare practices, suggesting collaboration opportunities. My strategy moving forward is to investigate how we can integrate AI technologies in South Africa, potentially through partnerships, to ensure successful implementation. 

EF: What strategies do you consider important to retain your team's talent and keep them motivated and engaged so that they can continue growing as a team? 

ML: Creating a positive work environment and recruiting employees who share our values and work ethic is crucial. Challenges in the pharmaceutical industry, especially within the supply chain network, can impact sales and require open communication and transparency to foster trust and find solutions. Perseverance, adaptability, and focus are essential in overcoming obstacles. This week, someone mentioned the importance of attitude versus aptitude in determining a company's or individual's success. While aptitude refers to skills and knowledge, attitude embodies a growth mindset and determination, which are crucial catalysts for success. Attitude plays a significant role in making the most of opportunities and can make the difference between success and failure. 

Constant engagement and open communication are vital to fostering the right attitude within the team. Team activities also help strengthen bonds and promote a positive atmosphere. Given our geographical distance from Europe, we must bridge the gap through regular quarterly meetings. These meetings allow us to reinforce the company's positive direction and its implications for employees. Moreover, ensuring that employees are well-trained in our products enhances their confidence and authenticity when representing them. This, in turn, facilitates smoother sales processes and builds customer trust. 

Guerbet's CSR projects have evolved to include initiatives like reducing CO2 emissions and establishing energy power plants, including solar plants. One notable achievement is the massive 2.4 MW solar plant in Dublin, supplying 18% of the plant's electricity. Additionally, our new pharmaceutical and gadolinium products boast half the dose of previous versions, benefiting healthcare and the environment. It's important to consider the impact on nature, as gadolinium used in MRIs doesn't dissolve and accumulates in the earth annually.  

Offering educational policies and opportunities for international mobility further enhances employee engagement and satisfaction. Teamwork and a shared vision are crucial for keeping employees engaged and motivated to achieve mutual goals and strategies. 

EF: With so much to celebrate next year, what will your speech look like for your team? What will you celebrate with them when you raise a glass? 

ML: As we approach our 10th anniversary in South Africa next year, it's a major event to reflect on our journey from humble beginnings to where we stand today. Every person who has contributed to our company's success should take immense pride in their achievements. Over the years, we've diversified our portfolio, expanded our team, and introduced innovative products. Our collective goal has always been to supply diagnostics that enable earlier detection and enhance the quality of life for patients across Africa. 

I want to thank everyone for their persistence, dedication, adaptability, and growth mindset, which have been instrumental in overcoming challenges and seizing opportunities. Our success is a result of our team's strength and ability to leverage each other's strengths and skills toward a shared vision. As we look forward to the future, let's continue to work together, striving for excellence and positively impacting the lives of those we serve. Thank you for your unwavering commitment and contribution to our journey thus far. 

It is remarkable the path that we have been through, and how we became experts and leaders in MRI, interventional imaging, and artificial intelligence. Reclaiming neglected registrations and navigating healthcare processes took months of dedicated effort. Since our rebranding in December 2015, we've made substantial progress. Despite the obstacles, we launched an innovative contrast agent in 2019, which was a significant achievement and our market share in MRI has grown since. We're also regaining traction in the X-ray field and building a robust platform for artificial intelligence. This progress wasn't achieved alone; it resulted from a collaborative team effort. As we approach our anniversary next year, let's celebrate how far we've come and continue working together to achieve even greater success. 

July 2024
South Africa