“We Want to Cover an Entire Therapeutic Spectrum, Helping Patients to Become Owners of their Conditions Alongside Dermatologists”
Alfredo Barón de Juan, Executive Vice President of Global Commercial Operations and Chief Commercial Officer at Almirall
Interviewed by James Coker | @EMJJamesCoker
Alfredo Barón de Juan is Executive Vice President of Global Commercial Operations and Chief Commercial Officer of the Spanish-based pharmaceutical company Almirall. In a recent interview, we discussed a range of topics, such as the importance of company values to the success of Almirall and the growth of partnerships and collaboration in the pharma industry.
Q: Almirall’s stated values are Caring, Dedicated, Dynamic, and Expert. What frameworks are in place to ensure these values are fostered throughout the company?
A: These four values are the pillars upon which we are building a very unique organisation where not only the management, but also the employees, feel empowered as key players in everything that is happening. We have several different initiatives in place to ensure these four values are realised. I think that being clear and transparent in the way that we explain our different strategies and initiatives makes people feel part of the journey of the company and keeps them engaged and committed to our purposes. Our values are also reflected in how we manage talent and develop people and we want each employee to feel that they are responsible for their own futures.
Q: To what extent have the focus of Almirall’s commercial operations evolved since you began your career there?
A: When I joined in 2000, Almirall was mainly a primary care company with a special focus in respiratory but also in the areas of gastroenterology, neurology, and allergy, so we were holistic. When we transferred our respiratory franchise to AstraZeneca back in 2014, the focus of our company shifted towards medical dermatology. We wanted to become the global leaders in dermatology in areas that are key for our patients, as there are still unmet medical needs that we hope to cover better.
Being a speciality company provides a clear advantage to our customers and stakeholders from payers to dermatologists because we are closer to them and better at understanding their needs. We are also integrating a growth mindset and embracing an ownership culture. I think all of this together is going to make us successful.
Q: One of Almirall’s strategic directions is to build a competitive advantage through customer affinity. Could you inform us about some of the methods the company is using to do this?
A: Our aim is to become a therapy leader within dermatology. Dermatology is a very broad therapeutic area and it’s important to have a clear focus on certain conditions where we have the skills to achieve this aim. This means in that in our culture we must have the customer at the centre of our missions, values, and operations. It is important to have this along the whole value chain, from discovery to market access and commercial operations, with the processes and tools in place to gather insights from the different stakeholders. So we need to define our customers’ interests very well, and this includes dermatologists and patients as well as payers and healthcare providers. And this is something that should be in our culture, from the top management through to our employees, in order to understand the needs of the patients, gather insights, and see how we can help them best cover their needs and deliver solutions.
Q: To what extent has patient-centricity become an increasingly important concept in the pharmaceutical industry? How important is this to the work of Almirall?
A: I think that the beauty of being a company of our size is that we not only have the willingness but also the capability to be really close to our customers. Everything is related to this concept of customer delivery, because in the end you are going to be a provider of solutions to dermatologists but also be in a great position to understand their needs and to partner with KOLs and other companies. We want to be experts in the areas we are already in and are currently reviewing many processes within the organisation with the aim of being closer to our customers. We are also developing tools for all our staff who are in contact with our customers and this is a process that is ongoing. So it’s about mindset but also processes; it’s not enough to say we like to be closer to our customers, we also need the internal tools, processes, and clear communication to provide effective solutions tailored to the needs of our customers.
Q: To what extent do partnerships with other organisations play an important role in the growth of Almirall? Could you give us an example of such a collaboration?
A: At Almirall, we have a long track record in partnering with other organisations, both public and private. Partnerships allow us to share knowledge, science, efforts, and build synergies. For example, we have aligned with a USA-based company called Athenex to develop and commercialise our first-in-class and potentially best-in-class topical treatment for actinic keratosis, called KX2-391. We are fully committed to this collaboration and will be helping to lead the European development registration strategy.
With the aim of reaching a wider scientific access to external innovation, we launched AlmirallShare in 2017, which is a web-based open innovation platform. This was created to facilitate collaborative projects with scientists worldwide and find innovative solutions to address unmet medical needs in skin health. This platform has drawn the attention of scientists from universities, centres, and start-ups interested in dermatology research. There are examples ranging from discovery to commercial agreements, so we have a very long track record of partnering with different organisations.
Q: Have you noticed any trends in regard to the ways in which pharmaceutical companies project and market themselves during the course of your career?
A: In the pharma industry as well as in other sectors, access to information and technology is changing the landscape. Today, patients, healthcare providers, and payers are not only better informed but better connected. For instance, I think patients act completely differently from how they did in the past – they have gone from being passive to more proactive. They talk to the doctors, they look for information, they talk to each other, and they look for solutions. In this environment, we are obliged to talk to them and to listen and understand their needs. There are different ways of communicating but what is of primary importance is having a coherent message.
We want to become leaders in conditions like acne, psoriasis, and actinic keratosis. Therefore, building a strong relationship with dermatologists and patients and delivering effective solutions is going to be key in the near future. We want to cover an entire therapeutic spectrum, helping patients to become owners of their conditions alongside dermatologists, hopefully finding a solution that holds beyond a particular product.