‘BMS’ Opdivo to lead cancer immunotherapy market’

Nam Doo-hyun  Published 2018.03.14  15:16  Updated 2018.03.14 15:16


- [Interview] BMS Korea CEO picks Opdivo as mid-term growth engine

Cancer immunotherapy Opdivo has become a new growth engine for Bristol-Myers Squibb Korea Pharmaceutical, following the patent expiration of anticancer drug Taxol, antithrombotic Plavix (Sanofi-Aventis Korea having the sales license), and hepatitis B treatment Baraclude.

BMS Korea said it would enhance its leadership in the cancer immunotherapy market by concentrating on the studies of Opdivo in combination therapy and its indications.

Park Hye-seon, CEO of BMS Korea, said she would endeavor to consolidate Opdivo’s No.1 status as a mid-term growth strategy for the next five years.

Park was appointed as head of the Korean unit at a time when BMS’ blockbuster drugs such as Baraclude began to slide in sales. She chose “transformation” as the keyword for the drugmaker to adapt to the fast-changing industry. Park vows to achieve sustainable growth, with successful changes in the business portfolio and corporate culture.

Before taking office in September 2015 as BMS Korea CEO, Park worked at business and sales marketing divisions for Bayer Korea, Korea Abbott, and Pfizer Korea.

Park Hye-seon, CEO of BMS Korea Pharmaceutical, speaks during an interview with Korea Biomedical Review.

Question: Which business portfolio are you focusing on?

Answer: First of all, our goal is to secure leadership in immunotherapies in the next five years. We had the broadest clinical trials strategies, including the combination of immunotherapies, immunotherapy and targeted therapy or chemotherapeutic agents. Our short-term goal is to remain as a solid leader in the cancer immunotherapy sector within five years.

In the longer term, we aim to diversify our portfolio. This is also a strategy of the BMS headquarters. In addition to immune-oncology, we are carrying out various clinical trials that focus on serious diseases related to immunology, cardiovascular, and fibrosis. We expect to see some visible results within the next two or three years. As a biopharmaceutical firm, BMS will diversify the portfolio with a focus on four areas – immunotherapy, immunology, cardiovascular, and fibrosis.

Q: Sales of Baraclude plunged, but you have to share the revenue of Opdivo with another drugmaker, don’t you?

A: It’s true that we are jointly promoting Opdivo with Ono Pharma Korea. It may be hard for us to fill the sales gap coming from Baraclude revenue decline with Opdivo in a short time. But we are actively studying on Opdivo’s broader indications. We have already received approval for lung cancer. Within this year, we expect to get additional approval for liver cancer, gastric cancer, and colon cancer. If the reimbursement for Opdivo can be quickly available, we will be able to make up for the sales losses from Baraclude with Opdivo earnings in a relatively short amount of time.

Q: What kind of goals did you have when you first joined BMS as Korean head and what have you achieved so far?

A: The timing was very significant and challenging for me because BMS was going through unprecedented changes. I had three goals when I had my inauguration, and they can be summed up with a keyword, “Transformation.”

The first goal was the transformation of the portfolio. When I took office, Baraclude contributed more than 90 percent of the company’s revenue, but its patent expiration was near. I had to quickly grow the next-generation product and support the existing products at the same time, keeping the portfolio balanced.

With every effort of executives and employees, 55 percent of the total revenue comes from novel drugs and growth products. My goal is to raise the figure to 80 percent within two or three years.

Secondly, we need the transformation of organizational culture. Plavix and Baraclude, which were BMS’ flagship products in the past, did not have rivals. On the other hand, hepatitis C treatment Daklinza and Sunvepra, and cardiovascular treatment Eliquis, and Opdivo – which were released later -- are facing fierce competition in the market. The new products are competing against at least 4 to 10 rivals.

The latest products are receiving heated attention in the market, and their growth potentials are enormous. This is why they are in severe competition. Thus, I thought it was more important than ever to change the mindset of the employees, who had little experience of competition in the past.

To win, it is also essential to learn from failures. So, I shared all cases of failure and success within the company. I also tried to strengthen the capabilities of middle managers. In particular, to enhance the competence of marketing staff, who are at the center of corporate innovation, I made a marketing innovation forum in 2015 and encouraged them to learn from innovative companies in other industries such as Google.

Hepatitis C treatment Daklinza and Sunvepra are now one of the most successful products with the fastest growth rate, both in Korea and the world. The result came from the efforts of the marketing staffs. As our employees accumulated successful experiences, they became confident. Now, our employees have a different mindset in facing a challenge.

The third goal was the transformation of BMS reputation. In the past, people used to associate BMS with Baraclude. Now, we aim to be recognized as an innovative biopharmaceutical firm with a diversified portfolio. We have thoroughly overhauled our corporate promotion strategies.

To position BMS as innovation and R&D-focused company, we held press events such as BMS Media Day and BMS R&D Day for the first time in 2016. In 2017, we created a brochure that introduces our firm in celebration of the 20th anniversary of BMS Korea and revamped our homepage.

Q: Can you give us specific growth targets?

A: We ultimately aim to achieve double-digit growth. Not only Opdivo but the anticoagulant market, in which we have Eliquis, has enormous growth potential. Eliquis proved that it had more potency than warfarin. The drug is the only anticoagulant that has the level of safety equivalent to aspirin. Considering such reasons, the current growth rate and potential, we expect our company to be No. 1 in the Korean market within the next year.

Eliquis is leading our revenue growth, and two other drugs, Sprycel and Orencia, are making double-digit growth every year. Both of the products are expected to continue double-digit growth over the next five years. Supported by such sales growth, BMS was able to turn around this year. In 2018, we will have a firm footing for further growth.

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