[INTERVIEW] Drugmaker sees untapped potential

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[INTERVIEW] Drugmaker sees untapped potential


Jean-Marie Arnaud General manager of Sanofi-Aventis Korea

Korea can become a world leader in pharmaceuticals by capitalizing on the local market’s highly competitive nature, but a number of hurdles must first be overcome, according to Jean-Marie Arnaud.

In a recent interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily, Arnaud talked about the potential of the local market and explained how the integration of a global pharmaceutical company’s local units can benefit the industry of their host country.

As the general manager of Sanofi-Aventis Korea, the local office of Sanofi, the world’s fifth-largest pharmaceutical company, Arnaud is playing a leading role in integrating the group’s four local subsidiaries.

The other three are vaccine producer Sanofi Pasteur, medicine maker Genzyme Korea and Merial Korea, which focuses in treatments for animals.

Arnaud said the four will continue to be individually operated, but will function under one management in a bid to expand their research into new, crossover pharmaceutical products. They will also focus more on R&D and customer service in Korea, he said.

Under Arnaud’s guidance, Sanofi-Aventis Korea saw sales of 344 billion won ($300 million) last year.

Sanofi is famous for Lantus, a top-selling insulin treatment, and Plavix, a cardiovascular disorder treatment. It also makes health enhancing supplements including Cenovis.

Q. What are the characteristics of the local market?

A. Although we have a very high quality product, the competition in the pharmaceutical market here is very intense. The Korean market, I think, is challenging and dynamic in that sense, and that’s why I think Korea can be the next leader country in the industry. The biggest challenge now is how to create innovation in the market, and this highly competitive market is pushing the country to develop more innovative measures to keep prices down.

Are local companies spending enough on R&D?

It is a challenge to be efficient because it takes a lot of money and time to invest in R&D. First of all, you need a huge database to increase the value of your research. And here, the Korean pharmaceutical market needs Sanofi.

Today, Korean companies do not yet have the capacity to conduct a lot of globally accepted research, nor do they have experience in developing dosages that fit the regulations of many different countries.

Research to predict what markets want, or to see what can be analyzed from the patients’ database, requires a huge pool of patients, so that standardized measures can be extracted.

Sanofi already has sources to make it happen, and that’s how we can help add momentum to the Korean pharmaceutical market.

How would you describe your job?

One of my main jobs is to promote Sanofi in Korea as the local GM. I’m also an ambassador of Korea for Sanofi. This part of my job is as important as the first part. I not only make sure that Sanofi’s products are suitably adapted for the Korean market, but also strive to encourage the mother company to invest more in the Korea-based units. I also need to present outlooks for the local market for the next three to five years.

How do you like serving as vice chairman of the Korea Research-based Pharmaceutical Industry Association?

It’s time consuming, but worth it. Because it’s a big association, many members have different opinions. But in the end, we have to have one official voice. We have to serve as a link between members of the public, political and social circles as the industry relates to public health. We cannot ignore what’s discussed outside the [pharmaceutical] world, and we have to engage in dialogue with the Korean government, and continue sharing our views to find what’s best for the local pharmaceutical market. In the end, we have the same interest for the Korean market on how to develop and provide better products.

Rumor has it you love reading math and science books for fun. Why did you choose to be in the pharmaceutical industry instead of pursuing your career in academia?

I was just a good student. I enjoyed studying mathematics and physics .?.?. but I chose a different career path, probably because I enjoyed my social life and interacting with people. And I thought I could always have a science as a hobby. From time to time, I read explanatory scientific books. And if you think about it, it helps to know math or science to work at a pharmaceutical company as we analyze critical data, read statistics, and even calculate the economic value of the products as they are being developed. Researchers have to assess the value of a new molecule or new concept of the [pharmaceutical] products, and it makes it easier to appreciate and understand the products if you know about physics.

By Lee Sun-min[summerlee@joongang.co.kr]

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