Personalised medicine and partnering – key areas for Ferring

Michel Pettigrew, President of the Executive Board and Chief Operating Officer at Ferring Pharmaceuticals, explains how his company’s decentralised model and focus on entrepreneurialism is helping it to deliver personalised medicine.

What would you say have been the most significant developments in the pharmaceutical industry over the past 21 years?

Empowered patients – and the technology that is empowering them – are two of the most significant developments in our industry. 21 years ago, patients relied on doctors for critical healthcare information, but today they are taking control of their own health. From investigating treatment options and discussing these with other patients online, to monitoring and managing their conditions through mobile devices and apps, today’s patients are constantly searching for a better outcome.

Influential patients and patient groups are driving healthcare debates on and offline, and pushing for increased access to treatment, healthcare education and research. Today’s patients are less accepting of the status quo – and rightly so. They are helping to reshape the way that pharmaceutical companies work, driving the positive shift to find holistic solutions for patients that go way beyond a pill.

Another key development is an increased focus on personalised medicine. Over the past decade we have seen more emphasis on individual patient characteristics and the value of delivering the right treatment, for the right patient, at the right time. We are already seeing improved patient outcomes thanks to more targeted interventions – particularly in the area of oncology – and we’ll see more focus on personalised medicine in years to come.

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How has your company evolved to meet these challenges?

Ferring has a decentralised model and a focus on entrepreneurialism, helping us to evolve and adapt quickly. As a private company with a single owner, we are also able to meet new challenges and opportunities by consistently putting science and patients first.

In terms of personalised medicine, we swiftly embraced the potential value of personalised approaches to treatment in our core area of fertility, recognising early on that many un-met needs were due to individual patient differences.

Motivated by a shared objective to pioneer personalised medicine in fertility, in 2014 we partnered with Roche to find a solution that combines biomarkerbased companion diagnostics with product innovation to effectively tailor a patient’s treatment strategy, based on her individual characteristics and predicted ovarian response. This year we launched the first fertility treatment approved in conjunction with a companion diagnostic, introducing a more consistent and precise evidence-based approach to personalisation.

Moving forward, we will continue to deliver personalised healthcare solutions for our patients by integrating pharmaceutical products with diagnostics, data, devices, education and support services.

Looking ahead to the next few years, what do you think Michel Pettigrew, President, of the Executive Board and Chief Operating Officer, Ferring Pharmaceuticals are likely to be the main opportunities and challenges affecting the industry?

Emerging markets will continue to bring new challenges and opportunities for the industry, as governments in these markets make healthcare a priority, while developed economies continue to cut healthcare funding.

Working with empowered patients right from the start of the pharmaceutical value chain and responding to the digital revolution in healthcare will also continue to be a key opportunity.

For Ferring and the industry as a whole, ensuring access to treatment for all patients, no matter where they live, will be high on the agenda. I think we’ll be seeing the formation of more innovative public-private partnerships in a bid to address this – particularly as the industry is called upon to help reach key global objectives in health, including the Sustainable Development Goals.

How is your company preparing for these developments?

Last year, Ferring announced a modified business model and decentralised governance structure to further enable our company to prepare for these and other developments. The new model empowers each market and region to respond more quickly and effectively to local challenges and opportunities. In addition to our marketing and sales affiliates, six local board-operated entities were established in the US, China, India, Japan, Russia, and Brazil. These entities are designed not only to address local and regional patient needs, but also to be sources of innovation for the global business. I’m very excited about where this will lead.

What would you say has been your company’s outstanding achievement (or achievements) of recent years, and what impact has this had on patients and potentially the industry in general?

In addition to our pioneering work in fertility research, an outstanding achievement of recent years is our collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and MSD for Mothers, which began in 2014. This collaboration has the potential to improve the quality of life for millions of women and save hundreds of thousands of lives. It also has the potential to demonstrate the unique power of public-private partnership to the industry and other stakeholders working to address global health.

Post-partum haemorrhage (PPH), or excessive bleeding after childbirth, affects 14 million women every year. It is the leading direct cause of maternal mortality and can lead to hysterectomy and severe anaemia for those who survive. To help make PPH history, Ferring, WHO and MSD for Mothers have developed CHAMPION – the world’s largest clinical trial in maternal health – which aims to demonstrate the effectiveness of Ferring’s heat stable carbetocin in preventing PPH, compared to oxytocin – the current standard of care.

Heat-stable carbetocin – a life-saving medicine that can withstand persistent exposure to high heat and be stored without the need for refrigeration – could significantly improve PPH management in hot climates where cold storage – a requirement for oxytocin – is difficult to achieve and maintain. If the trial results are positive, we will work together to make the medicine available to the public sector in low- and lower-middle-income countries with a high burden of maternal mortality, at an affordable and sustainable price.

Successful innovations in pharma are likely to increasingly rely on partnerships and collaborations between manufacturers, suppliers, academics, and a whole range of other companies and organisations. What do you look for in these relationships, and can you give an example of one that has worked particularly well for you?

We look to partner with a broad range of companies, academic institutions and organisations that share our values and are focused on making a transformational difference to patients in our core areas of reproductive medicine and women’s health, gastroenterology and urology.

In addition to our ongoing partnerships with Roche, WHO and MSD for Mothers, another collaboration that is working well is with the Karolinska Institute and Science for Life Laboratory on the Centre for Translational Microbiome Research (CTMR). Here, researchers are exploring the role that the microbiome plays in human health and disease. This exciting agreement should help us to develop innovative new ways to diagnose, prevent and treat disease; enable early interventions for those at risk of developing certain conditions; and generate personalised treatments or life style interventions for patients in areas from preterm birth, to recurrent pregnancy loss, to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Company profile

Founded in 1950, Ferring Pharmaceuticals has grown from a small family business focused primarily in Europe, to a mid-sized global player in the Top 50, with a growing presence in the US and Asia. Today, Ferring employs over 6,000 people across 56 countries and markets its products in 110 countries. In 2016 its revenues were €1.8bn. A scientific leader in fertility and obstetrics, Ferring’s ambition is to be the world’s leading, most trusted healthcare company in reproductive medicine and women’s health – and a leader in specialty areas within gastroenterology and urology.

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