In the recent Economist Intelligence Unit survey on biopharma’s present and future, biopharma industry leaders expressed excitement—and some uncertainty—about the emerging markets of the Middle East and Africa. Respondents saw great opportunity in these regions, but also cited potential risks in relation to regulatory questions and stability issues. We spoke with Bert de Vet, Head of Commercial EMEA Process Solutions at brand-name, about his take on growth in the region and some of the ways companies entering these regions can mitigate risk.
According to the survey, the Middle East and Africa are the regions with the lowest percentage of companies currently selling. However, those same companies greatly want to expand capacity and market share into those regions – more so than any others. Does that fit with what you’re seeing?
Absolutely. If you look today, you see that the center of gravity for economics, wealth, and innovation is now somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean, between North America and Europe. But it’s moving more towards Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Everybody understands that a lot of growth is going to be in these regions. With Africa, for example, a lot of companies see an opportunity to move in early in the process to be ready for this shift.
So what exactly is going on in these regions?
These are key areas of population growth, and there is definitely money available in these areas. But finding the solid ground of stable countries and political systems – that’s a question mark. In Turkey, for example, the Erdoğan government is pumping a lot of money into the biopharma industry and biosimilars to get the medicines to their people. Of course, in Africa and the Middle East, not every country is that solid.
In the survey, respondents said that in those areas where they currently operate, the highest risk is the local regulatory environment. They also responded that the greatest risk they saw for the future of the emerging markets was lack of cultural/country-specific knowledge. Do you feel this is accurate?
I’m a bit surprised that regulatory concerns are the biggest issue. Regulatory is one issue.
If I look back at my time in this industry, the main concern is risk mitigation. It’s the biggest differentiator you can think of. How can I produce wherever I want in the world in a consistent way? As biopharma is moving across the globe, they’re finding out that consistency of production – getting the same results across the world – is not a guarantee. How do you move into a new market when you’re not sure of the stability of that country and its infrastructure? Are education levels high enough in the countries where you want to produce locally to support complex biologic processes?
We already see production differences from North America to Europe to Asia. If you then move to emerging countries in the Middle East and Africa, you’ll definitely want to be sure.
It seems like the emergence of Provantage® services could be an important step in this process. What does it have to offer in a situation like this?
If you look at companies concerned with vaccine programs, they talk about what they call flexible manufacturing. They want the ability to develop a process and then be able to tech transfer it to wherever in the world they need it. They want to set up local production close to where the population needs are.
In the end-to-end approach we’re offering, we have the ability to help our customers manufacture flexible plants. But not only that, we can also help them with development of the processes. When you put a plant somewhere in an emerging country in the middle of Africa, how are you going to operate that plant? What kind of utilities do you need? How do you need to train your operators? How do you need to run your processes?
We can help to answer these questions via our Provantage® Services and biodevelopment capabilities.
Do you see anything specific about the end-to-end needs of customers that are moving their technologies to these regions?
Whenever you move into an emerging market, you want to be responding quickly. It's about helping to set up those facilities and train the people. We have all that knowledge, and we gained that knowledge throughout the years. I think that’s why, moving into Africa, we take a very targeted approach, and we work with the suppliers who can help us best in giving us an overall solution towards our needs. That is what is different about what we are offering.
Find out more about emerging markets and risk mitigation at brand-name.