Ines Perea, general manager for Spain and Portugal at Jazz Pharmaceuticals, a global biopharmaceutical company dedicated to developing life-changing medicines for people with limited or no options in the areas of sleep and hematology/oncology, discusses her progress over the last 14 months in nurturing the local affiliate and the importance of human capital and having the right team to succeed.
[Jazz music] is the art of harnessing individual talents through collaboration, improvisation and constant evolution. It’s unique in its sound and composition, and the connections it creates are personal. In healthcare, it is much the same
Having come from Big Pharma, what was the rationale behind moving to a more niche company like Jazz?
What I love in life is science, working with talented people, and creating something new where there is an opportunity to launch products that can make a real difference to patients’ lives. Jazz Pharmaceuticals is a company that offers all of these elements. Another distinguishing feature of Jazz is that we seek solutions for rare or complex diseases and help ensure those solutions are available for the often-overlooked patients who need them. We are developing meaningful medicines that have the potential to positively change the lives of patients and their families. It is for all of these reasons that I decided to join Jazz.
What is the current footprint of Jazz Pharma in Spain?
The affiliate in Spain was founded in 2014 and has been growing significantly ever since. In fact, we have tripled the number of employees from when I first joined, with more than 25 people as of today. In Spain, our haematology/oncology portfolio is our main focus, with specific expertise in acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) and severe hepatic veno-occlusive disease (VOD). All of these conditions can have a devastating impact on patients as the prognosis is particularly poor.
As we are a relatively small team, we require strong skills and capabilities; collaboration is absolutely crucial. My management team consists of only three people: myself, a Regulatory and Market Access Director, and our Medical Director. We are currently working with the Spanish agencies and health authorities to make our first products within our haematology/oncology portfolio commercially available in Spain by the end of the year. Once we have achieved this, we will build a commercial team in order to fully support these products.
With this expansion, we plan to move our Spanish office from Barcelona to Madrid by the end of this year. In the next few years, we are also looking forward to bringing Sunosi™ (solriamfetol), a potential treatment for excessive daytime sleepiness associated with narcolepsy or obstructive sleep apnea, to patients in Spain. This will enable us to build on our leadership and experience in sleep in the U.S. as we expand globally into this therapeutic area.
What is the impact of the market fragmentation present in Spain?
This requires a lot of planning and understanding of the Spanish ecosystem. As soon as you start working with the central authorities, you need to begin working with the regional authorities too. The critical component here is collaboration. At Jazz, we always work together as a matrix team. This is backed up by strong scientific experience and an understanding of what the priorities and gaps in the healthcare systems are on a regional level, along with being aware of the need for the system’s sustainability. By taking all of this into account, we hope to have a commercialised product on the market by the end of the year.
Part of the solution may also require additional real-world evidence. Therefore, we have to be able to demonstrate that we are bringing value to patients and society, as well as working closely with the health authorities and other important stakeholders. While this can be challenging, it is critical in order to ensure that patients receive our medicines.
How adaptive is Spain to utilise this real-world evidence?
This differs from community to community, which adds complexity. It is still early days in understanding what the individual regions will require. There are 17 regions, with 17 health systems, all requiring different evidence. The processes are therefore not always clear. As a result, we must always be open, have the aim to reach an agreement, and maintain transparency and trust at all times. In my personal experience, having these attributes often results in successful outcomes, enabling patients to access medicines who may need them.
Jazz Pharma prides itself on being an R&D focused company, investing nearly $200 million on R&D in 2018. What opportunities does this pose for Spain?
As the field of science has grown, so have our R&D capabilities. We actively explore revolutionary drug options ranging from small molecule advancements to biologics and identifying novel compounds within haematology/oncology and sleep medicine. For example, we are continuing to develop Jazz’s proprietary CombiPlex® platform, a system that allows us to design and evaluate various medicines for hematologic cancers and solid tumours. These advancements are a reflection of our continued investment and focus on an evolving and growing R&D model.
Spain is a country of strong clinical trials. We are already working with scientific societies to begin clinical trials in the area of haematology/oncology. We have just agreed to start a new trial in Spain with the national Scientific Society. This helps to give us a good foundation that we can build on. At Jazz, we have a strong clinical development team who collaborate with members of the healthcare community to better understand the needs of patients throughout the R&D process. This dynamic approach has allowed us to bring new medicines to market – from late-stage discovery through to clinical development and regulatory approval.
From my experience, when there is support from the global organization and a clear focus on developing an active clinical trial programme to support patients in Spain like there is at Jazz, Spain becomes a very open country for continued R&D investment and collaboration.
How do you plan to ensure that Spain remains a competitive affiliate?
In order to meet our objectives as a Spanish affiliate, it’s not just about considering revenues, we also need to take science and human capital into account. Ensuring that Jazz is a great place to work is one of these important factors. Our employees and leadership are very focused on ensuring we continue to have a vibrant culture, which is particularly important when the company is growing at such a significant rate. As a result, we are able to attract talented individuals from a range of different backgrounds who all want to leave a positive impact on patients’ lives.
How easy is it to find the right talent in Spain?
Jazz is a great company for enthusiastic and talented people, which makes the difference. Being a relatively small organization, with a clear focus on patients and a strong pipeline and vision, it has not been difficult to attract talent to Jazz in Spain.
Our philosophy and culture are unique here. Our company name was inspired by Jazz music, which is the art of harnessing individual talents through collaboration, improvisation and constant evolution. It’s unique in its sound and composition, and the connections it creates are personal. In health care, it is much the same. We blend the lessons of art with our deep understanding of patients’ needs and the power of science to develop and introduce medicines for people who often do not have other options. It’s this unique philosophy and our commitment to the patients we serve that defines Jazz.
What are your main goals for the future with Jazz?
My number one priority is to ensure that Spanish patients are able to access our medicines. We are looking forward to bringing Vyxeos® (daunorubicin and cytarabine), the first new treatment in more than 40 years for adults with newly diagnosed, therapy-related acute myeloid leukaemia (t-AML) or AML with myelodysplasia-related changes (AML-MRC) to patients in Spain by the end of this year. Patients with t-AML or AML-MRC in particular, have some of the poorest survival rates compared to those with other forms of leukaemia and we believe that Vyxeos is a meaningful therapeutic option for patients with this rapidly progressing, life-threatening blood cancer.
In the longer term, we also hope to launch Sunosi™ (solriamfetol), a potential treatment for excessive daytime sleepiness associated with narcolepsy or obstructive sleep apnea, in Spain in the next few years. Sunosi™ received FDA approval in March, and in the US, Jazz is already known for its leadership in sleep medicine. It is our expertise here that we will be bringing to Spain and other European markets as we expand globally into this therapeutic area.
I am confident that we will become a leading biopharmaceutical company that continues to develop and commercialize medicines that address unmet medical needs to improve the lives of patients, their families and the societies in which they live.