2020 witnessed a decade of scientific progress compressed into just 12 months. And as a result we now have, ahead of all predictions, a number of C-19 vaccines that can protect the heroic healthcare workers, the elderly and the vulnerable; and hopefully society as a whole as long as we can keep the mutations in check. We also have treatments that are helping many more by saving lives of people who contracted the coronavirus. I am gladdened to see how my peers across the biopharmaceutical industry have contributed to the global efforts in society’s hour of need. Many companies forged new collaborations to develop COVID-19 diagnostics, treatments and vaccines, while at the same time making sure patients suffering from other conditions continued to receive their treatments. It has not been plain sailing – some companies have seen the risks they have taken rewarded with highly effective and totally new vaccine technology, others have gone back to the drawing board, or even abandoned. But that’s the nature of our business, taking risks in the hope that we can make a difference to people’s lives.
Tough months maybe years of an “unstable crisis” lie ahead
The challenges ahead are many-fold; not least to make sure that COVID-19 solutions are distributed equitably. In such a febrile environment where our politicians and institutions are under pressure like never before, we need to show our business model has a social business mindset in addition to a financial mindset.
Environmental, Social and Governance drives positive and purposeful action
We have our work cut out for us, as an industry and therefore for IFPMA too. But as the Chinese word for crisis also means opportunity: there has never been a time when the economic and financial damage of ignoring public health have been starker. Now investors as well as politicians and policy makers are looking at us, the biopharmaceutical industry needs to show how it meets the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) criteria. We need to demonstrate the contribution we make to access to medicine and health for all, and that these are key factors to support economic growth and stability.
An IFPMA strategy in sync with our business and patients today and in the future
IFPMA has an important role to play here – to inform and explain how the biopharmaceutical business model can integrate availability & accessibility while still striving to push the barriers of science to offer hope and better lives for people wherever they live. But this on its own is not sufficient, not least because, if COVID-19 has taught us one thing – it is that we are all in this together. IFPMA is in a privileged position to listen and co-create solutions to societies’ global health challenges. It can create platforms for key stakeholders to engage with our industry. It can be a force for change by co-creating sustainable solutions to strengthen health systems and address global health challenges in particular pandemic preparedness. IFPMA has already gotten off to a great start in this area with the creation of the Access Accelerated, and more recently the AMR Action Fund.
Responsibility, ethics and sustainability at the heart of the business model
I look forwards as the incoming IFPMA President to help IFPMA steer this course. I intend to work to ensure that “ethics” and “sustainability” is at the centre of our work. Ethics without living up to our values, we will lose the trust of patients and healthcare professionals, without which our innovations will serve no purpose. Sustainability in terms of our contribution to the sustainable development goals (SDGs), and more specifically the health SDGs such as Universal Health Coverage and contributing to strengthening health systems who need a “shot in the arm” to get back on track to meet the needs of patients. But also, sustainability in terms of how financial markets look at the viability of our balance sheets and our governance systems, as well as our contribution to society and our environmental footprint.