PharmaBoardroom recently sat down with Janssen EMEA head Kris Sterkens, who outlined the enduring importance of Europe to the global group, even with the emergence of Asian power markets such as China and the continuing significance of the USA. Read the full interview here.


Where Europe really does excel is in the existence of universal healthcare coverage systems

Kris Sterkens, Janssen EMEA

Sterkens is uniquely placed to compare the levels of innovation and entrepreneurialism in the European and Asian markets, having previously managed Janssen’s Asia Pacific operations. He opines that “it is clear to me that Europe’s record is quite mixed. On the one hand, I see the evolution of stimulation of innovation and the venture-capital infrastructure around that not only in the US, but select Asian markets such as China and Singapore, and to a much lesser Japan and Australia, and it becomes obvious that Europe is lagging behind. This isn’t just limited to healthcare but applies more generally. I think it is no coincidence that apart from a few outliers like Airbnb and Spotify there is nothing much of size that has come out of Europe in the last couple of decades in terms of disruptive tech entrepreneurialism.”


However, Sterkens is not yet ready to write off Europe completely. “On the other hand, certain European markets like Switzerland and Belgium perform admirably when it comes to transitioning to value-based care, and where Europe really does excel is in the existence of universal healthcare coverage systems,” he notes. “The US market, by contrast, is entering a danger zone when you consider the unsustainable share of the healthcare burden costs and, at some point, something will simply have to give. It’s only a matter of time.”


Indeed, given the fact that two of Janssen’s star products – prostate cancer med Zytiga® and immunology blockbuster Remicade® – came off patent in the US, but not in Europe, in 2019, the continent has become increasingly important to Janssen’s overall revenues. Sterkens explains, “EMEA remains a very important growth driver for us. 2019 was initially expected to be a “trough” year with our Chairman, Jennifer Taubert, predicting as much as a USD 3 billion hit to sales due to the patent expiries of Zytiga® and Remicade® in the US and subsequent generic erosion. In actual fact, Europe, where the patent cliff is still to happen, has been registering robust revenues and has largely managed to compensate for any shortfall. We are now contributing more to growth than we did in the past.”


Europe has been registering robust revenues … We are now contributing more to growth than we did in the past

Europe also seems increasingly willing to embrace the high-technology, high-cost innovations that Janssen is bringing to market, with the European Medicines Association (EMA) having granted a PRIME accelerated access designation for Janssen’s CAR-T therapy, JNJ-4528. Sterkens feels that this designation is “a hugely important signal on how these latest generation biologics are being perceived by the external environment. We have already received similar sorts of designations from the FDA in the United States and PDMA in Japan, so it is reassuring to know that Europe is also in the game for this type of novel therapy. The responsibility now falls to us to develop and deliver it properly.”


Read Kris Sterkens’ full interview here