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Interview: Jorge Gallardo, Almirall

The executive chairman of Spanish pharmaceutical company Almirall explains to PME editor Linda Banks how bold investment in R&D and international expansion are key to the company's growth
Jorge Gallardo

The executive chairman of Spanish pharmaceutical company Almirall explains to PME editor Linda Banks how bold investment in R&D and international expansion are key to the company's growth.

The pharmaceutical industry is currently immersed in a complete transformation in which there are three possibilities: disappearing, surviving, or growing, by which I mean transforming the environment to get stronger. The key for Almirall is in trying to be 'the best in what we do'. This means following a strategy based on innovation in its broadest sense. Companies' greatest challenges lie with creating cultures that encourage innovation and empowerment and this involves time, leadership, flexibility and a forward-looking approach. Contrary to other pharmaceutical companies, I believe that at Almirall, we have succeeded in building a culture of growth and opportunity for those who aspire to influence decisions that will change our future, particularly in achieving our vision of bringing innovative new therapies to market.

Key to success
In order to be able to offer patients the best therapeutic solutions, the key to the success of a pharmaceutical company like Almirall lies in our medium size. This enables us to be strong enough to take on ambitious projects while at the same time being fast and flexible in actively seeking new business opportunities. Meanwhile, we have earned a very credible position in the dermatology and respiratory franchises and our commitment to both is solid. This has meant that in 2010 we were ranked the second largest dermatology pharmaceutical company in Germany and the ninth in Europe. In addition, we are looking forward to the launch of a first-in-class therapy in gastrointestinal disease and creating an even stronger respiratory portfolio.


Born in Spain on September 26, 1941, Jorge Gallardo Ballart holds a degree in Industrial Engineering from the Barcelona Higher Technical School of Industrial Engineers (1965), a doctorate in Industrial Engineering from the Barcelona Higher Technical School of Industrial Engineers (1972) and a numerary academic of the Catalonian Royal Academy of Pharmacy (1992).

He was president of EFPIA (European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations) from June 1998 to January 2001, as well as vice-president and member of the executive board in the periods 1996-1998 and 2000-2002.

He is a member of the executive board of IFPMA (International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations).

At Farmaindustria, he is currently vice president and member of the governance commission and the board of directors. Previously, he held the position of president twice, from October 1993-1995 and October 2002-2004.

He is also a member of the Official Association of Industrial Engineers of Catalonia, the National Association of Industrial Engineers and the American Chemical Society.

Jorge Gallardo joined Almirall in 1965. He held the position of chairman and chief executive officer until July 1, 2011, when the role was split. He is currently executive chairman of the company.

Our commitment to R&D is an essential part of our long-term growth strategy. As such, Almirall allocates over 15 per cent of its global sales and workforce to innovation and development projects, in line with the sector giants. This makes us the leading Spanish pharmaceutical company in the European ranking of the 1,000 companies that invest most in R&D [The 2010 EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard].

Innovation is one of our keys to growth. In fact, our current pipeline is the most extensive in our history. We now have five R&D projects about to start or already in phase III and we are intending to register another two projects in 2011: aclidinium bromide for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and linaclotide indicated for irritable bowel syndrome with constipation, for which there is no specific treatment approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

Regarding acquisitions, our priority is to concentrate on Europe, although we are open to looking at opportunities that would enable us to offer the best drugs with the maximum yield. This means we look at every business opportunity either for licensing-in or out, acquisitions or other kinds of strategic agreements. In each specific case we have to bear in mind that they must be environments that we can manage, so we analyse the situation and its strengths and weaknesses before taking a decision.

Internationalisation is one of the main objectives of forward-looking companies like Almirall. We have been committed to becoming an international company for some time now and we are focusing on two specific lines: to continue working in the 12 countries in which we have affiliates (Germany, Austria, Belgium, Spain, France, Italy, Mexico, Nordic countries, Poland, Portugal, United Kingdom-Ireland and Switzerland) and locating partners in places where we do not have an affiliate, thus making our products available to a wider spectrum of society.

Some of the latest notable corporate development operations were the acquisition of Hermal, a leading German company in the dermatology field, and the incorporation of a series of medicines from Shire, the most important of which are also in dermatology. As a result of both agreements we are now stronger in the dermatology franchise.

Another example is the agreement signed in 2010 with Basilea Pharmaceutica to market Toctino in Austria, Belgium, Slovakia, Spain, Holland, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, Poland, Portugal and the Czech Republic. Toctino is a once daily oral treatment for adults with severe chronic hand eczema that does not respond to topical corticosteroids. The product has now received pricing and reimbursement in Italy and Austria where it has already been launched. In 2011 it will be launched sequentially in the other European countries. This means that a greater number of patients will benefit from our therapeutic solutions.

Spanish situation
Offering patients the best diagnosis and therapeutic resources is the priority objective and 'leitmotiv' of the industry. Obviously it is also seeking to obtain maximum performance from its investments, which usually happens with a high risk of uncertainty and, in Almirall's case, by reinvesting a large proportion of revenue and workforce into R&D. This dual challenge is increasingly more difficult to achieve, particularly with the effects of the global crisis and the measures adopted last year by certain governments, including the Spanish, in the healthcare arena.

This situation may suggest a stagnation of the pharmaceutical sector and undoubtedly this will be the case for many companies, but not for Almirall. We are aware that healthcare demands are increasing and here we see opportunity, as long as we keep believing in R&D.

In Spain in 2010, Almirall held an outstanding position among the pharmaceutical companies that operate there, with a 5 per cent market share [IMS values TAM December 10]. Almirall has eight products in the 100 top-selling products in Spain: Prevencor, Esertia, Plusvent, Actonel, Opiren, Dobupal, Parapres and Ebastel. The year's sales evolution has benefited from the launches of new products Silodyx (for  benign prostatic hyperplasia, licence from Recordati)  and Conbriza  (for osteoporosis, in co-promotion with Pfizer) in Spain, as well as the excellent growth of  Efficib and Tesavel for type 2  diabetes. Also in 2011, we have launched Sativex,  an oral spray for spasticity in multiple sclerosis, which will be deployed in Europe soon. As you can see, we are working hard to maintain our leadership position in Spain.

International expansion
Opening up markets is absolutely essential for growth. In Almirall our internationalisation process was consolidated in the 1990s and since then an international focus has become one of our strategic objectives. We now have 12 affiliates, 11 of them in Europe. We are looking to become stronger in Europe as this is our natural growth environment. But this does not mean we are not looking for partners or agreements to market our products in emerging countries too.

We are excited about our international offering and, in particular, the talented people we have working for us. They are perfectly poised to help us grow our business at the local level across Europe and beyond, building our respiratory portfolio and launching a new product in gastrointestinal disease.

Strongest affiliates
At the moment our priority affiliates are United Kingdom-Ireland and Germany. We anticipate that over the next few years they will still be some of the most important European markets. The United Kingdom-Ireland affiliate was opened in January 2008 and dermatology diseases are its main therapeutic focus. Meanwhile, in Germany, as I mentioned, we are the second pharmaceutical company in dermatology. We also have two R&D centres in Germany; one specialised in dermatology and another in inhaler technology, which produced our inhaler device Genuair, our proprietary technology for delivering new inhalation compounds, which will undoubtedly be crucial in developing our respiratory franchise.

Our general managers in some of our European affiliates outside Spain, like UK-Ireland and Germany, are inspirational in their commitment to delivering our international vision. Together with growing and dynamic teams, they are leading our future; bringing new medicines to market in new therapeutic areas, transforming us from a specialist dermatology business there into a more international pharmaceutical company.

Almirall is well placed to be able to meet patient needs and we are preparing to do so to an even greater degree in the future. Our pipeline is diverse and aims to meet important needs, including diseases that have a great impact on society, such as asthma, COPD, gastrointestinal disorders, psoriasis and other dermatology disorders.

Our company offers products that give patients and their families the maximum value, as well as physicians and healthcare institutions of various kinds. Patient societies are becoming increasingly close as natural partners in the dialogue for the welfare of people.

From its origins as a family company, Almirall has become a prominent pharmaceutical company in Europe

Long heritage
Almirall was founded by my father, Antonio Gallardo Carrera, in 1943 in Barcelona, Spain, and in 1944 it started its industrial and commercial operations, followed in the 1970s by R&D activity. As it has evolved, from its origins as a family company, Almirall has become a prominent pharmaceutical company in Europe and a listed company since 2007.

As Almirall becomes an ever more international player in the pharmaceutical arena, we are changing our leadership structures slightly, with the chairman and CEO roles separating. Eduardo Sanchiz is the new CEO, a position he took up on July 1. I am now executive chairman and will continue to work with the board and the CEO, concentrating on strategic priorities and related actions to continue building Almirall into a leading global healthcare corporation.
Proudest achievement
In 1965 I joined the company and since then it has, undoubtedly, shaped my personal and professional growth. During this time I have learnt many things about the world of business and the people that form part of it. Naturally I feel proud to be leading a company like Almirall and this has all been possible due to the team that supports me: highly qualified people who persevere in their work.

I have, therefore, had the chance to witness numerous milestones in the company. However, I would highlight two: the first is the integration of Almirall with Prodesfarma, in 1997, which gave us another dimension as a company and enabled us to take our internationalisation process forward successfully, and the second is the decision to become a listed company in 2007.

Today, we are a partner that is becoming increasingly solid in global markets. This is why we are ranked 69 among the highest turnover pharmaceutical companies in the world and in Europe we are ranked 32. I believe we are the perfect 'travel companion' in the European arena and I am proud of the opportunities we are creating for the future.

Linda BanksThe Interviewer
Linda Banks is editor of PME

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26th July 2011

From: Research, Sales



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