Read the Conversation

EF: 2020 was the year of diagnostics, 2021 the year of vaccines; what do you think 2022 will be the year of?

SB: 2022 will be the year of recovery and digitalization. Non-acute and non-communicable diseases have moved out of focus which has posed challenges for our business. This came particularly in relation to global supply chain disruptions and shortages. Coupled with inflation and energy shortages, this affected our production, distribution, and operations. Despite these challenges, the pandemic served as an accelerator for digitalization which will last much longer than the challenges.

Digitalization goes beyond discovery; it has been integrated into the things we do on a day-to-day basis. We quickly adapted to digitalization and implemented it throughout our different systems and processes. In the beginning, we used digitalization to open communication channels, now we are using it to create personalized healthcare. It will be a major tool and a driving force for the entire healthcare ecosystem in the future.

EF: What lessons did you learn during the pandemic?

SB: Merz Therapeutics adapted to the pandemic and changed quickly into a hybrid work model. This did not require a major change, as we already offered our employees the option of mobile working before the pandemic. We formed and implemented webinars, digital platforms, and classes throughout the pandemic, which boosted our digital footprint. Right now, we are integrating analogue and digital formats because we see that face-to-face interaction is just as important as virtual

collaboration. We have all come to appreciate the flexibility and a healthy mix of online and on-site interactions. So, I am convinced that the hybrid model is the future.

EF: What was your given mission when you were appointed, and how has it evolved since 2020?

SB: The Merz Group is a family-owned company with a rich culture of over 115 years. Merz Therapeutics was founded as an independent business entity within the Merz Group, focusing on prescription medicines as well as the OTC business. This organizational change laid the foundation for a tailor-made future for our business.

Merz Therapeutics’ mission is to bring better outcomes to more patients. It is our motivation and daily drive. The most important aspect to keep in mind when creating a new treatment is the patient’s needs and quality of life. Our core product enables individualised treatment for each patient. In order to provide high-quality services, engagement with all relevant stakeholders, from the patient to the doctor and the caregiver, is fundamental.

EF: How do you bring everyone on board and keep everyone's focus on patient-centricity for the best patient outcomes?

SB: Working to deliver the best patient outcomes and being patient-centric in our decision-making strongly resonates with our employees. Digitalization is fundamental in creating more opportunities for meaningful communication with our stakeholders. That is why we are working extensively to increase our digital footprint.

EF: What skills are needed for the new generation of employees in the pharmaceutical industry?

SB: Merz Therapeutics is growing and developing within the ecosystem, market, and society. As we are using digital tools and skills to expand our portfolio, we look for digitally literate and digitally enabled talents among pharmacists, doctors, biologists, and other experts. Knowing and using digital tools is the future of the changing healthcare ecosystem.

Merz Therapeutics is one of only a few experts in the market on botulinum neurotoxin from research, production, marketing, and sales. As a pharmaceutical company, our future is based on our R&D innovation and products. We reinvest a significant amount of our revenue back into our R&D to fund innovation.

EF: How is your therapeutics portfolio performance in Germany and globally, and what do you have in your product pipeline?

SB: In Europe, we are the first company with an approved botulinum neurotoxin for the treatment of sialorrhea in children and adults. The treatment is administered through intraglandular injections. One injection significantly improves the patient’s quality of life for four months or longer. Thus, it is important to treat and bring relief to all patients by providing access to this treatment. Currently, we are focusing on delivering different new forms and types of neurotoxins. We consider the time of onset, duration, and new indications for different patients.

EF: What steps can be taken in Germany to improve local production, and what advice would you give to others looking to grow in this area?

SB: We pride ourselves in being a local production champion with most of our products being produced in Germany. We heavily invest in increasing our capacity for our neurotoxin production facilities. One of the key requirements in local production expansion and growth is reliable reimbursement conditions. In Germany, for example, a new law was passed that will lower prices for pharmaceutical products. Fixed reimbursement prices during inflation are one of the key issues that should be resolved early. Reimbursement systems should increase prices on essential drug lists to make it easier to supply pharmaceuticals in the long run.

The healthcare industry is one of the major economic pillars of Germany, which is why the government should support the industry with reliable frameworks to manage dependencies and attract investments. Creating the right conditions for investment, especially for German-based companies like Merz Therapeutics is important. As a company, we contribute to securing Germany’s position as an innovation hub by enabling more innovation and investment.

EF: How do you see the product portfolio evolving and driving innovation through partnerships?

SB: Partnerships are crucial to us. Merz Therapeutics has long been a partner of choice with many partnerships and collaborations. Recently, we embarked on a developmental partnership with Vensica to develop a new and less invasive treatment for overactive bladder. Currently, surgery is the only treatment option. We are working to develop a needle-free injection treatment that does not require anaesthesia. With Vensica we will offer an innovative treatment option that directly delivers neurotoxins to an overactive bladder using an ultrasound-assisted catheter.

Merz Therapeutics has a very active business development which has made us a partner of choice across the globe. We are constantly looking for new partners to develop and commercialize new therapeutic opportunities with our neurotoxin and actively seek out opportunities in the market.

EF: What do you look for in a partner?

SB: This tends to be specific to what we are collaborating on. We are engaged in development partnerships as well as in marketing and sales partnerships to expand our footprint. It is about entering a mutually beneficial partnership.

EF: What are the biggest advantages and challenges of producing in Germany? And what measures can be put in place to fix this?

SB: Supply chain management is a major topic right now. To produce a pharmaceutical product, all the elements and ingredients need to be in place. If an element is missing, production is impossible. This is why we are expanding our production footprint in Germany. For each ingredient or element, we ensure we have several sources.

EF: What role does Merz Therapeutics have in shaping the future of the innovative pharmaceutical sector in Germany and globally?

SB: We strive to become a global leader in speciality pharma by expanding our product portfolio beyond toxins. At Merz Therapeutics, we focus on people. We are working together to address the unmet needs of those living with chronic disease and improve their quality of life. “Better outcomes for more patients” is our purpose and mission we work towards each and every day.

January 2023