The company group chairman of Janssen EMEA tells Tom Meek why a focused product portfolio and expert staff are imperative to success
As company group chairman responsible for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) at Janssen, Jane Griffiths is a very hands-on executive. Not only does she make frequent visits to employees working across these regions to hear their views, but she has also climbed Mount Kenya to raise money for charity – an activity very much encouraged under the company ethos.
She is also passionate about fuel saving and sustainability and keeps a rare breed of sheep at home, so she is no stereotypical executive.
For her, the job is exciting because it has three main dimensions: the geographic spread, the product portfolio and the people.
Janssen EMEA has local offices in over 30 countries and works in over 100 countries, Griffiths having responsibility for 6,000 of the more than 14,000 employees.
Janssen's parent company, Johnson & Johnson (J&J), is the world's sixth largest healthcare and consumer company and the largest in medical devices. It has a big presence in biologics, in fifth place globally, and is the world's eighth largest pharmaceutical company.
With the backing of this significant industry player, several companies have been brought together under the Janssen umbrella in recent years, including Centocor Ortho Biotech, Tibotec and Cougar Biotech, to strengthen the product portfolio, which concentrates on the five key areas of infectious diseases, immunology, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, neuroscience and oncology.
Griffiths expands on J&J: “It is notoriously difficult to do research in neuroscience and we're one of the few major pharma companies now remaining in the field. It's not easy to find targets for disease in those areas, but we've got a major push there at the moment.”
In the EMEA region, $1.5bn is spent on R&D, of a total $5.1 bn worldwide, which has positioned the group with what analysts have said is one of the best pipelines in the industry, Griffiths states. However, she is quick to point out that this is as a result of the hard work and dedication of the R&D teams, as well as external relationships with small biotechs and licensing of compounds from other partners.
The company has addressed the pipeline issue through transformational medical innovation, she states, “which means concentrating on new molecules in areas of high unmet need that are very well differentiated. You really can't make headway in today's markets unless your drugs are well differentiated. You don't get the reimbursement level that's needed to really fund the new developments going forward. So that's where we're focusing.”
So, J&J has brought 13 drugs to market in the past six years, almost all of which are in the target areas of oncology, HIV, schizophrenia and immunology.
Jane Griffiths on Janssens' 'diversity of thought' and taking a hands on approach to CSR
New drug developments
Griffiths states that in the EMEA region: “We launched four new drugs last year in prostate cancer, hepatitis C, HIV and schizophrenia. And when you're operating in areas like that, you know you're making a real difference.”
Another area that she sees as key for the company's future is the use of biomarkers: “Bringing drugs to market that are better defined for the group of patients who will benefit from the product is going to be essential going forward. But of course there are things to address around the regulatory aspects of some of those biomarkers and how they're valued in terms of the packaging of the biomarker with the drug. That's something that will need to be worked out.”
In terms of innovation, one of the most important considerations is ensuring accelerated access to the product: “In today's environment we have to have some very good health economists in the business to make sure that we have a good value proposition for payers as well as a great clinical proposition for patients. So there's a big focus on that in our group right now,” she goes on.
But she also emphasises the need to explore new spaces too, like developing markets. At a recent Economist congress in Africa, she explains, they examined the emergence of the African healthcare systems and how they were trying to bring better healthcare to their people, which she describes as “a fascinating meeting”.
“And importantly in these markets, we must move beyond just providing a pill to a doctor, but say, 'OK, what else does a patient need to make that treatment more effective?' For example, help with compliance. New technology means you can have apps on your phone that remind you when to take your medications. And there are amazing new technologies out in the field, such as a wristband that could monitor how active or not an Alzheimer's patient is, even where they are, whether they're at home or wandering down the street late at night. So we're really excited about that area, as well,” she enthuses.
“We are also looking at new healthcare systems; we have a project in Germany where we have set up a separate company responsible for the integrated care of several thousand schizophrenia patients in collaboration with the biggest German health insurance company. This company is managed completely separately from our pharmaceutical business with the aim of learning more about how we can treat these patients better beyond medication. Such ideas are interesting models for the future.”
Partnerships are the way forward, she believes, whether these are with small biotechs, technology companies, academia or payers and governments. However, as an industry in general, she thinks there is still some way to go towards becoming a fully trusted partner: “When you think of what we do in terms of bringing great medicines to the market, we ought to be a partner. For me, one of the conundrums of our industry right now is how can that partnership be improved for the good of patients? We know that it will happen if we build trust. We have to be a trusted partner; we have to be a transparent partner.”
Jane Griffiths completed a PhD in Biochemistry at the University of Aberystwyth in the UK in 1982.
She then joined Johnson & Johnson (J&J) as a sales representative for 18 months.
Next she became a clinical research associate for J&J and was involved in running clinical trials for some of the products in the pipeline.
After this, she followed one of the products through into marketing and found her niche in the commercial arm of the business.
During her career at J&J, she has held various positions of increasing responsibility on a UK, European and global level.
She is now company group chairman for Janssen in Europe, Middle East and Africa, responsible for the pharmaceutical business of Janssen across the entire region, which encompasses over 100 countries.
Griffiths is a member of the EFPIA Board, chairwoman of the PhRMA Europe Committee, co-chairwoman of the EFPIA Executive Committee, a steering committee member of the J&J Women's Leadership Initiative, a board member of the J&J Corporate Citizenship Trust in EMEA, chair of the J&J Global Pharmaceuticals Sustainability Council and member of the EMEA Healthcare Businesswomen's Association (HBA) Senior Advisory Board.
She was recently awarded the HBA EuroExcellence Award for 'Promoting the Advancement of Women in Healthcare'.
Griffiths also sees this trend continuing in the future, with more joint working with universities and institutions. This is part of the company's R&D strategy, “since the world is our laboratory,” she asserts.
In addition to having well-differentiated products, Griffiths is passionate that it is essential to employ and nurture the best staff: “There is nothing more important than that you have a well-engaged, well-informed, well-communicated-to group of people who feel part of the endeavour of the organisation. If you want to hold the top position, if you're going to invest a lot in R&D and have the best-skilled people in the industry, that's going to result in a great reputation. Then, if you want to partner with other companies, this reputation will mean you are good to partner with because of your expertise,” she says. “If you really enjoy what you do, you're more engaged in what you do. So why wouldn't there be a better business result as a part of that?”
There is very much a sense that Griffiths works in a spirit of cooperation rather than taking the top-down approach: “It's a company that really relies on expertise. So we listen to the people that have the expertise, and then come to a kind of consensus decision,” she explains.
One of the strengths of Janssen, and the group as a whole, is that it values diversity in its staff as “critical”, she asserts. “It is one of our company goals. It is about gender diversity but it's also about diversity of thought, making sure we can have differences in perspective, whether culturally, geographically or in terms of background. When everyone is coming to a meeting with a truly different perspective, this brings out some good discussions. We have to have a good mix.”
She believes that, while women are far better represented in business today, there must be a supportive culture. “Women still find it difficult to manage the work and home balance, but younger men are becoming more involved in looking after the family now. So if we understand what's been holding women back in that respect, it's also going to help young men coming forward.
“You need the sort of environment that ensures you don't lose good people because they feel guilty that they're not working until 10 o'clock at night. What is wrong with people leaving work at four and then you see them back online at nine at night when the kids have gone to bed? It's a different way of working, but it's still effective.”
Since she started just over a year ago, she has been keen to accelerate staff development. The Janssen Academy is one example, where the company investigates what skills it will need in the future and then trains people in those competencies. She is also enthusiastic about nurturing young people with talent, “putting more focus on them and understanding who the key people will be in the next five, 10, 15 years”.
Plus, she is fully supportive of the corporate social responsibility initiatives of the group, with J&J matching the charitable fundraising of its staff, which helped her raise money as a result of her Mount Kenya climb.
The company also has programmes for providing not-for-profit drugs to the 40 poorest countries, particularly for HIV, as well as for TB in the near future with the development of its multi-resistant TB drug.
Awards for online programmes
Janssen has also won awards for its online programmes, such as Psoriasis 360. Griffiths explains that the aim is to get half of its interactions through digital channels. What is important for her is to ensure that Janssen is the most recommended company among patients: “A lot of what we do in our communications and the way we interact with people is to really build a rapport with people. It's no good just winning awards; any initiative has to mean something to patients.
“The majority of those initiatives aim to increase the effectiveness of the drugs that we bring to the market. So it's making sure that we deliver the full potential and value of our medicines to patients. So it's not in a promotional sense that we engage with them, but it's making sure that once they have our product that they really understand how to take it, what the context is.”
Griffiths is evidently passionate about the field in which she works: “The difference between our industry and many other industries is that at the end of the day there's a patient waiting for the product or the drug. And the older I get, the more I understand how vulnerable people feel when they're ill. If we can be involved in creating a better situation for patients, then I think this is a great business to be in.
“There aren't many jobs that you can have like that. I'm really privileged. Honestly, I just love it,” she concludes with a smile.
Tom Meek is web editor of PMLiVE.
Words by Linda Banks, editor of PME.