Entrepreneurially-minded individuals, together with academic institutions with their fingers on the pulses of the latest trends, are propelling Czech pharma companies to great success and cementing the Czech Republic at the forefront of healthcare innovation in Central Europe.
[Czech know-how should not] be compared with the stereotype of Eastern European operations, but with the standards present in Germany or France
Vladimir Velebny, Contipro
The Czech Republic, a small Central European nation with a population of around 10.5 million, is not necessarily known for its scientific advances and contribution to the modern healthcare environment – but it should be! It is home to one of the world’s largest generic pharmaceutical companies—Sanofi’s Zentiva—with Zentiva’s roots dating back to a 15th century Prague pharmacy.
Another more recent historic figure with significant impact in today’s healthcare and pharmaceutical landscape is Antonín Holý, a pioneering Czech chemist who revolutionized the perspective on HIV treatment and is a major figure in shaping modern abilities to treat the vicious retrovirus. Much of the present Czech scientific efforts are contributing towards better healthcare, explains Jiří Drahoš, President of the Czech Academy of Sciences—the largest academic institution in the Czech Republic—highlighting the “interdisciplinary research programme ‘Wellbeing in health and disease’ which researches the most important needs of contemporary healthcare,” pronouncing that 16 percent of the academy’s output is “classified as world-leading,” and hoping for equally significant results from the research programme.
It is not only the world of academia that is advancing healthcare-related issues in the Czech Republic, but also the entrepreneurs who identified pharma as their niche after the Velvet Revolution in 1992. One of these entrepreneurs is Vladimir Velebny, founder of Contipro. “I always had the feeling that I could do more to help people and society,” explains Velebny, who before founding Contipro worked as scientist researching hyaluronic acids. Today Contipro enjoys thirty percent global market share in the hyaluronic acids derivatives segment. Velebny explains that he decided to commercialize his research for the benefit of global humanity and soon found himself “distributing across Europe, US and Asia, growing stronger year-on-year.” Contipro’s significant point of differentiation is “the quality we provide which we hold to the highest standard,” elaborates Velebny, furthermore highlighting that Czech know-how should not “be compared with the stereotype of Eastern European operations, but with the standards present in Germany or France.”
Velebny is not alone in seizing the opportunities that pharmaceuticals has to offer. OAKS consulting however, have taken a different approach and now provide market access services “to almost 30 companies including a majority of leading MNCs from the pharmaceutical industry” as Jaroslav Duba, CEO and founder, proudly exclaims. Similarly to Contripro, OAKS’ road to rapid success has been relatively simple, explains Durba, witnessing “significant demand, we simply keep fulfilling our clients’ needs to full satisfaction—and the projects keep coming!”
If these two companies will indeed change the global healthcare and pharmaceutical landscape as Antonin Holy’s work once did remains to be seen. Nonetheless, Contripro as well as OAKS Consulting prove that the Czech Republic is not simply beneficiary of development, innovation and entrepreneurship within the healthcare sphere, but is proactively shaping the industry.
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