Mr. Kaiser, which indications and products is Sanofi currently focused on?
Diabetes remains our most important area in Germany. We lead the market in this field. The Onduo joint venture with Google is an absolutely cutting-edge project. Instead of developing a pharmaceutical product, it investigates how we can make the treatment results or outcomes for diabetes patients better. One aspect is the method of administering insulin using network- and data-controlled pumps rather than injections. We are also researching new biotech products. The next step will be our rollout of two innovative monoclonal antibodies in Germany: one for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, the other for atopic dermatitis. The latter has been awarded FDA breakthrough status, as there is no satisfactory alternative currently available for the treatment of adults in this area. We are also developing bi- or tri-specific products – so antibodies that attack two or even three targets – in the area of cancer therapy.
How important is digitization to your research?
It is a tool to help us learn more and to achieve better treatment results. Each stage of the value chain involves the collection and analysis of data: research, development and production. Clinical trials are organized differently these days, and treatment is changing and becoming more personalized as well. I am a fan of motor racing. Nico Rosberg would never have become world champion without telematics telling him when he was braking too early or too late compared to the competition. Treating a patient is no different. In fact, they may not be patients at all if we can give them individual instructions on how to adjust their behavior. Feedback is becoming increasingly important in medicine as well.
Which strategic challenges is the pharmaceutical industry currently facing?
We need to adapt, inhale and integrate these new methods, technologies and trends. We are a heavily regulated industry by tradition. Valuable time is often lost before competent authorities decide on new technologies. In many cases this forces us to adopt a parallel strategy that is both conservative and innovative. But now the regulatory authorities appear to have understood that electronic health records – as an example – are important. First we need to find out what is beneficial. Then we have to define how we want to use it and how it will help our patients. Finally we must decide on how it should all be implemented. What we see around us certainly warrants the name ‘technological revolution’.
With over 130 hospitals and Charité as Europe’s largest university clinic, the German capital region Berlin-Brandenburg has a powerful clinical sector treating a huge number of patients. Sanofi uses Berlin as its base to run marketing and sales. What do you believe is so special about Berlin?
Berlin is an innovative, open and international city. The last aspect is particularly important to us, as it helps us to recruit the best talents. The business enterprise sector taking root here is simply overwhelming. Young people are happy to come to Berlin because it’s here that they find kindred spirits, because life is good and the city is historically important. These factors influenced me as well. When I left Berlin in 1984, the Wall still bisected Potsdamer Platz where our offices are now located. The city – Germany as a whole – has benefited hugely from reunification. We support the scientific community and are involved in many different conferences to make Berlin an attractive city of science. For instance, we have launched innovative research projects with Charité, initially to investigate strokes, and then as part of the Diabetes Alliance. Researchers contribute to the findings and the accomplishments right from the get-go. It is our goal to break down the barriers between the academic and industrial worlds. Our collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute in Gießen emphasizes this concern as well. The employees have access to our substance library for antibiotic research – our crown jewels, as it were. And Fraunhofer will be at liberty to exploit anything developed outside the field of human medicine, commercially as well.
Are there startups that you find particularly interesting?
Many startups are not even aware of their potential benefit to the healthcare sector. So we need to create opportunities to share information. We promote platforms that support startups, for instance by organizing competitions – an example is our sponsorship of the StartUpBootcamp digital Health. I frequently drop by the Factory Berlin or the Cube when I need inspiration. I can wholeheartedly recommend the experience to anyone. We already collaborate successfully with companies like BioNTech, Evotec, Apeiron Biologics, MAB Discovery or Curevac, and we certainly welcome cooperation. Our ears are open for fresh ideas.