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EF: What was the mission that you set for yourself for Germany when appointed in January this year?
VW: GSK Germany has been very successful, and this is a landmark year for GSK. We have separated from our consumer business, which has now become the independent company Haleon.
We have made a global commitment; we are going to impact 2.5 billion lives across the world over the next 10 years. And through doing that, we are going to drive a step up in the topline sales growth of 5%. My mission at GSK Germany is to take a well-performing business and look at ways to accelerate growth and make Germany a powerhouse in the overall growth of GSK. I believe the focus is on bringing innovative medicines and vaccines to patients across Germany and making sure the right patients have access to our medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible. That is my driver.
EF: What are the lessons learned from the Pandemic?
VW: I learned a lot during the pandemic. I was the Global Commercial Lead for a COVID therapeutic, interacting with governments and other stakeholders whilst in lockdown. I also needed to lead a global team at distance keeping them engaged and motivated during the pandemic to deliver medicines during uncertain times. We were driven by wanting to bring innovation to patients, and this was a massive learning for me.
In order to increase the pace to do things faster, you need to have a clear decision-making process, a clear goal, and an organization that is absolutely focused on making a difference. This is how you can make a massive difference.
EF: Could you elaborate on the footprint that you have in Germany and what is your role in keeping access to medicine at the top?
VW: In GSK Germany we are 3,400 employees, and we have two manufacturing sites in Marburg and Dresden with over a hundred years of heritage, focused on vaccine production. We have also a leading cutting-edge R&D site in Heidelberg called Cellzome, which is focused on oncology. In 2021, we performed 47 different clinical studies in Germany, involving over 11,000 patients at 680 different research sites.
Our footprint is extensive and diverse in Germany, with R&D, manufacturing, and performing clinical trials which I believe is critical to have to keep innovating.
Germany is also the most important vaccine market for GSK in Europe, the second-largest GSK vaccine market in the world. It is critical that Germany remains as a country and healthcare system that values and accelerates innovation. I believe bringing innovation can also save money for the country. In a post-pandemic world, we need to look at designing highly effective preventative strategies. We know that vaccinations among children and adolescents in Germany have decreased significantly after the pandemic. We know that we are often not really crossing the 20-30% threshold for immunization rates in adults, even after the Corona experience, where we are way above that.
EF: What initiatives do you think can be put into play to address this situation?
VW: First, we need to ensure that government bodies and departments are effectively resourced, so we can move beyond COVID. We need to focus on other viruses like meningitis B for children and other diseases. Because what gives Health Care providers and the public confidence is seeing national recommendations. We need to ensure we are moving back to business as normal to focus on what is next. Performing joint initiatives on disease awareness between companies and the government is also important and can drive that awareness of why prevention is important. Moreover, working with doctors to ensure that they are aware of the benefits of recommending the vaccine, and is one of the most important actions that could be taken for a patient. Ensuring that doctors have got the capacity and education to suggest preventive measures like vaccines.
EF: How GSK is driving digitalization?
VW: Digital is touching everything we do. In pursuing education, we have a program that is called the Impfakademie, which is an entirely educational resource which is a one-stop place for vaccination information. It's non-promotional, where people can attend webinars, request information, or schedule a visit from our team if they need. Using digitalization to drive access to information quickly and completely helps to educate better and faster physicians. We are also tailoring our information through understanding our customers better with digitalization. We can address physicians with relevant information to them. Understanding the preferences of information and preferences of channels can really help tailor our education and promotional strategies.
EF: Could you elaborate on what is needed to ensure Germany is an Innovation Powerhouse?
VW: With the recent changes with the new financial stabilization of the statutory health insurance act, I see that keeping Germany an innovation powerhouse will be important. There is no doubt that the healthcare system and budget in Germany are at risk with the current geopolitical situation. Seeing the pharmaceutical sector as a cost driver and increasing rebates, and with the changes to the AMNOG process, which is market access and payer process, might stifle innovation. I believe innovation can lead to cost savings, through fewer hospitalizations, prevention, etcetera. We need to work together with politicians, payers, HCP associations, and patient groups to ensure that we continue to welcome innovation in Germany. This has absolutely been the case in Germany so far, and we need to ensure it continues to be the case.
EF: In a couple of months, you will celebrate 1 year. What would you like to celebrate?
VW: The primary thing that we are celebrating is what is behind innovation, patients that have been helped with our medicines and vaccines.
I would also celebrate that we have a very engaged workforce that is motivated, talented people who are extremely proud of GSK and that relate to our innovative products. Also, for diversity, inclusion, and our work conditions. Getting innovation to patients with a team that is still highly motivated. Celebrating success on the pipeline we have bringing innovative therapies and vaccination. We are at the end of the year with a strong performance, which is really helping GSK overall meet our objective of reaching 2.5 billion people over the next 10 years with our medicines and vaccines.