Bring­ing Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal In­no­va­tion To The Re­gion

Joe Henein, Pres­i­dent and CEO of NewBridge Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals (NBP), dis­cusses his com­pany and about pre­sent­ing in­no­va­tion to the health­care field in the re­gion.

Forbes Middle East - - THOUGHT LEADERS -

Bridg­ing the ac­cess gap has been a key tenet of NBP’s vi­sion. What does this ac­tu­ally mean to you? And how do you mea­sure your per­for­mance on this is­sue?

There are many in­no­va­tive ther­a­pies pro­duced by bio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies that elect not to op­er­ate in MENA. So, we cre­ated a re­gional plat­form for them to part­ner with us and ex­tend a bridge to bring their in­no­va­tion from west to east. This is where the name, NewBridge Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, came from.

We built the in­fra­struc­ture, or­ga­ni­za­tion and pro­cesses to pro­vide these drugs to the re­gion, pro­cure ap­proval from health­care au­thor­i­ties, se­cure ac­cess to the physi­cians and pa­tients, and com­mer­cial­ize them across the re­gion.

We are fo­cused on cer­tain ther­a­peu­tic ar­eas like im­munol­ogy, on­col­ogy, neu­rol­ogy, meta­bolic and or­phan dis­eases. These in­no­va­tive ther­a­peu­tics usu­ally ad­dress un­met med­i­cal needs for dis­eases with high

preva­lence in the re­gion. So, our suc­cess is mea­sured by our abil­ity to bring these se­ri­ous in­no­va­tions to the re­gion, and suc­cess­fully avail these new treat­ment modal­i­ties to help im­prove pa­tients’ jour­ney and their lives. In ad­di­tion, our per­for­mance is also mea­sured by cre­at­ing value for our part­ners for their in­no­va­tive ther­a­pies across 15 coun­tries within the re­gion.

I have over 35 years of ex­pe­ri­ence In the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals in­dus­try in the U.S., Europe and MENA, and I take spe­cial pride in my role as the head of this com­pany. My cur­rent role helps me lead a mean­ing­ful pur­pose in at­tract­ing these sci­en­tific ad­vance­ments in medicine and aid­ing the treat­ment of the re­gion’s pa­tients in ar­eas of our spe­cial­ties.

What types of in­vestor do you cur­rently have on­board?

We have share­hold­ers from the U.S. and Kuwait. Our U.S.based in­vestors only deal with health­care and bio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, while the Kuwait-based in­vestors rep­re­sent in­sti­tu­tional in­vestors and sov­er­eign wealth fund.

They are very sup­port­ive of the mis­sion and vi­sion of NewBridge Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and have been our in­vestors for over 10 years now.

To what ex­tent has NBP had an in­or­ganic growth?

Since our first full com­mer­cial year in 2013, we grew or­gan­i­cally with around 38% CAGR.

We haven’t fo­cused on in­or­ganic growth as we have been com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing a suc­cess­ful track record with the ther­a­pies we li­censed so far. How­ever, we are ex­am­in­ing other re­gions, and will in­clude an in­or­ganic ad­di­tion to our ex­ist­ing busi­ness when the time and op­por­tu­nity arise.

Is the U.A.E. gov­ern­ment suf­fi­ciently re­ward­ing in­no­va­tion? The U.A.E. rec­og­nizes in­no­va­tion in phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals very well, from of­fer­ing early ap­provals to in­no­va­tive medicines, to ad­e­quate pro­tec­tion of in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty rights. It also of­fers the gen­eral en­vi­ron­ment, in­fra­struc­ture, and open­ness for in­no­va­tive star­tups like NewBridge to op­er­ate across the re­gion, tak­ing the U.A.E. as its head­quar­ters.

As an in­no­va­tor, does NBP main­tain strong con­tact with med­i­cal as­so­ci­a­tions here in the Mid­dle East? To be suc­cess­ful in our busi­ness, you need to know your cus­tomers well and pro­vide the aware­ness and the ed­u­ca­tion nec­es­sary for the reg­u­la­tors and the med­i­cal com­mu­nity about the in­no­va­tion we bring to the re­gion. We work with key opin­ion lead­ers who are usu­ally early adopters and are prob­a­bly first to know about these new drugs. In ad­di­tion, we con­nect well with med­i­cal as­so­ci­a­tions, univer­si­ties, and spe­cialty physi­cians. Pa­tients’ ed­u­ca­tion and en­hanc­ing their aware­ness about dis­eases are also im­por­tant.

Af­ter 35 years spent in the big pharma in­dus­try, what has been your proud­est achieve­ment?

While in the U.S. dur­ing my time as the VP & Global Ther­a­peu­tic Area CoChair/Com­mer­cial Global Chair for an­ti­in­fec­tives at Wyeth Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals – U.S.A., I was re­spon­si­ble for the de­vel­op­ment of a prod­uct that was still in phase 2. How­ever, at the time, the FDA is­sued some reg­u­la­tions on de­vel­op­ment guide­lines for an­tibi­otics, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for com­pa­nies to con­tinue in­vest­ing money and ef­forts into de­vel­op­ing new an­tibi­otics. Un­for­tu­nately, all this hap­pened while the world was on the verge of fac­ing global re­sis­tance prob­lems.

My other co-chair col­league and I took the chal­lenge and ad­dressed the is­sue with the FDA to in­crease aware­ness of the in­creased costs as con­se­quences of these new guide­lines and re­sult­ing de­lays or even stop­ping the anti-in­fec­tives re­search al­to­gether.

Weeks later in New York city, a cri­sis erupted when pa­tients started fac­ing se­ri­ous mi­crobes that didn’t re­spond to any avail­able treat­ment. The FDA asked Wyeth to sup­ply our new drug, de­spite the fact it was pend­ing ap­proval. Upon ad­min­is­ter­ing our drug, many of these des­per­ate pa­tients were cured. In re­sponse, the FDA al­lowed us to con­tinue our de­vel­op­ment, even fast track­ing the ap­proval of a drug called Ty­gacil®.

Another proud mo­ment in my ca­reer was my time as the Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of Wyeth in MENA. Dur­ing this pe­riod, I took the lead in in­tro­duc­ing a pe­di­atric vac­cine and se­cured govern­ments’ en­dorse­ment to in­clude this amongst rou­tine vac­ci­na­tion sched­ule for in­fants in six coun­tries around the re­gion. Preve­nar® is now with Pfizer af­ter it ac­quired Wyeth. Now, many more kids are safer be­cause of this vac­cine.

What will this in­dus­try look like in five years?

We will see more per­son­al­ized medicine tai­lored to the ge­netic or bi­o­log­i­cal make up of each per­son. We will hear more of gene ther­apy, or­phan dis­eases, and bi­o­log­i­cal ad­vance­ment in ther­a­peu­tics.

Al­though the hu­man genome was suc­cess­fully de­coded years ago, we have started to see the fruits of it now. We tend to un­der­stand the root causes of some of these dis­eases bet­ter than be­fore, and now we are see­ing a plethora of in­no­va­tion com­ing our way and in the next few years.

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