The Sunday Business Post, October 22, 2017
Welcome speech by Guy Villax, Chief Executive, to the attendees of the 6th Hovione Seminar.
Estoril, 17th September 2009
Ladies and Gentlemen – Good Morning and Welcome,
I am delighted that you all came from far away to be here with us to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Hovione. Thank you. I am so glad to see so many faces – from so many moments – recent relationships and very long standing ones. Only a moment ago Gerold Stamm was telling me my father supplied him with doxycycline in 1979.
In 2007, I was a witness before a sub-committee of Congress and I said that for 40 years I had had a front seat watching the growth and evolution of the pharmaceutical industry. There have been endless changes, but what I feel is most important is to do with people.
For a long time careers would last a shorter time than the lives of companies, today it is the other way around. Most careers last far longer than companies. Among many stories that shaped Hovione, the one about us supplying Agouron with Viracept stands out as a good example. When the original 10 tons per year forecast became a 100 ton per year challenge, Hovione rose to the occasion. We were trusted to do the impossible, we committed to do our best, and together we came though and delivered a $500m sales product in the 1st year. Agouron was so successful it was bought by Warner Lambert, then by Pfizer. But still today many of the people that worked with us then to do the impossible -and made sure the market was never short of product- are now working in many other biotechs across California and they have great memories of what collaborations can achieve. The Agouron story was -to me- the first evidence that the outsourcing model not only worked, reduced risk and cost but that it was also robust and able to meet the toughest challenge. Viracept at some stage mobilised 1000m3 of reactor capacity.
So business is about networks, people that trust each other and work together to achieve great things.
Second listening to customers is not easy. In addition to listening carefully one has to really understand the client’s context. Unless we are familiar with the driving forces that shape decisions within a customer we will never be able to be proactive and truly become aligned with it. The most challenging aspect of the future way of working in the pharmaceutical industry is how to work collaboratively. The “procurement” model will soon be dead because the Parma Industry is now facing for the first time ever strong Darwinian pressures. The need to survive will drive evolution and only the fittest will succeed, the issue here is not being the best among equals – the winner will be of a new shape, working in a new way. But it takes two to tango, so a new shape of supplier to emerge we need a new shape of customer.
Third – again people, people make things happen. At the top big decisions get taken, but the outcome is to do with execution, Getting it done, right first time – every time is a matter for everyone in the company – and it is especially at the operations level, whether in the lab or operating reactors, that actions are taken that result in good yields or not, in deviations or not, in surprises – better good than bad. You can only procedurise so far, you need to count on the human side – to do this you need great people. This does not happen by chance, it is not determined by culture, or nationality, or even by education – it is a matter of leadership, of somehow providing everyone in the company with a sense of belonging, making work meaningful.
Nothing gives our work more sense than when we are told what our products do for patients. Yesterday a customer told me he has a desk full of letters from parents of children that suffer from cystic fibriosis. This is a terrible illness, these kids probably never had a good night’s sleep in their life. Peter was telling me that after 3 weeks on the new drug, they sleep – their life is changed. Hovione is part of that effort, this is why we are here.
There are many people that should be mentioned as key in our first 50 years. Whether as customers giving us business and opportunities to make a difference, or as team members developing the solutions and manufacturing the products. The way we will show our appreciation is by focusing on the work ahead, making sure Hovione continues to do a good job.