At last week’s 2011 Partnering for Global Health Forum, sponsored by the Biotechnology Industry Organization and BioVentures for Global Health, a unique panel of government leaders from emerging markets discussed what it takes to do business in their countries.
Among the panelists were: Argentina’s Lino Barañao, minister of Science, Technology and Innovative Production; India’s Maharaj K. Bhan, secretary of the Department of Biotechnology; South Africa’s Bongi Gumede, senior general manager of technology innovation and marketing at the country’s Technology Innovation Agency; and Brazil’s Julio Ramundo, managing director of venture capital for the Environmental and Capital Markets Division of the Brazilian Development Bank. Also on the panel to provide analysis and perspective was industry expert Steven Burrill, CEO of Burrill & Company (see Burrill’s regular column for BioPharm International).
A few common themes came out of the discussion, including a focus by each nation on innovation and collaboration. Individually, Argentina’s Barañao noted that his government will be investing a lot more in healthcare and diagnostics during the next three to five years. He suggested that one of Argentina’s strengths is its regional market power and noted that other countries may want to start looking at regions versus countries for future R&D, trade, and so forth. He also noted that Argentina’s aging population will provide opportunity for healthcare and bio/pharma, and that Argentina’s ethnic similarities to Europeans should be considered in future drug discovery and research and development efforts.
Brazil’s Ramundo said that his country—one of the BRIC nations and a growing leader in bio/pharmaceutical manufacturing—intends to continue to grow. Its northern region, in fact, is growing at the same pace as most of China. Brazil’s government plans to move 16 million people out of poverty and into the healthcare system over the next 10 years, he said, a move that will provide great opportunity—as well as challenges—for the healthcare and drug sectors. Ramundo noted that pricing and segmentation will be of interest as a result. He also pointed out that Brazil’s current regulatory system, stable budget, and healthcare policies are likely to help the country in these endeavors.
India’s Bhan said that his country has had a strong biotech strategy for several years and will be taking a more international approach in the next few years. Part of its near-term strategy will involve looking into biosimilars as an area of growth. India’s population is growing quickly and opportunities for healthcare and pharmaceuticals will grow with it, he noted.
South Africa’s Gumede pointed out that South Africa, as a port and trade starting point, is the gateway to many African countries and that nations elsewhere should consider this as they strategize to enter the African market. He noted the advantages of the new trade bloc getting underway throughout most of the entire African continent that will bring together the existing Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
In wrapping up the panel discussion, Burrill provided a few predictions of his own for the future of the biotech, pharma, and global healthcare sectors. He noted that “cellphonology” will be of particular interest as cell phones are used more and more as diagnostic tools, and that the world will need to think of how it delivers and manages healthcare in a whole new way. As an example of how much things may change in the next 10 years, he pointed out that Google is less than 10 years old, and that this single technology has changed forever the way people work and interact. Similar developments and technologies that we cannot even envision are likely to come at a rapid pace in the near future, he said.
As new diagnostics, treatments, and cures are discovered, Burrill noted that the future of bio/pharmaceutical discovery and development may very well be less about treating sick populations and more about keeping healthy populations well. In other words, healthcare targets will be less about acute care and more about chronic care and prevention, he said. This may be especially true as noncommunicable chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and cancer grow in developing nations like China.
Looking further ahead, Burrill noted that the big pharma companies of today are likely to be replaced by companies that are just starting—or will soon be established—in the emerging markets of the world. He went on to say that the Internet and connect-ability will change the nature of competition and that new capital structures to build different kinds of companies and countries will exist. He also asked industry to keep in mind two growing powers: consumerism and brand value. These powers will be of surprising importance in the future, according to Burrill.