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Innovation at the Core of Pharma Firms

Innovation being a key to pharmaceutical success, but also considering it to be a core element of its corporate strategy, Hungarian drugmaker Richter Gedeon Nyrt. sees itself as an innovation-driven specialty pharmaceutical company, it tells the Budapest Business Journal.

The research and development of original drug molecules and the development of high added value biosimilars are key elements of the company’s business strategy. Each year, the group invests some 10% of its turnover into research and development, which reached HUF 39.9 billion (EUR 128.5 million) in 2017, Richter adds. 

“Innovation and researching original drug molecules have played a key role in the company’s strategy ever since it was founded in 1901. The company was able to continue its founder’s relentless dedication to innovation despite the historical storms of the 20th century,” the company tells the BBJ.

“It managed to reorganize its research activity after the Second World War. Thanks to this, the company could introduce several proprietary products in the second half of the century, including the CNS (Central Nervous System) blockbuster Cavinton®, which was the biggest success of the company in the field of R&D in this period of time,” the statement adds.

Fast forward a few decades, and we arrive at one of the biggest achievements of the company in the recent years. Antipsychotic drug Cariprazine was discovered by Richter researchers and developed for the treatment of bipolar mania and schizophrenia jointly with Allergan (earlier Forest/Actavis). It was approved by the FDA in 2015 and has been marketed by Allergan in the United States since 2016 under the brand name Vraylar®. In 2017, marketing authorization was granted by the European Commission for the treatment of schizophrenia in adult patients under the brand name Reagila®. In 2018, Richter Gedeon was awarded the Innovation Grand Prize of the Hungarian Innovation Foundation for Cariprazine.

Increasing Competition

The company says that in the past decades generic pharmaceutical companies have found themselves impacted by increasing peer competition and restrictive national budgetary environments. 

“To overcome this challenge, pharma firms followed different strategies. Richter’s response was to implement a high added value driven specialty pharma business model, with a primary focus on an organic growth strategy complemented with selected acquisitions, primarily in the field of women’s healthcare (a therapeutic area chosen because of the company’s solid expertise in gynecology),” the company says.

At the same time, Richter says it has invested significant resources in building up one of the widest Women’s healthcare portfolios worldwide. As part of this strategy, the company also preserved its original research capabilities and invested in establishing biotechnology facilities. 

“In this regard, Richter’s main priorities remain unchanged as it continues to focus on said areas. We expect our first biosimilar product to enter the market next year, and intend to increase the role of biotechnology further in the future,” the company adds.

Richter notes that innovation efforts in the so-called “big pharma” chiefly focus on developing biological compounds for personalized therapies for patients, and patient safety is a top priority. Furthermore, being an integral part of the company’s strategy, innovation has been a major contribution to the company’s success and future, and knowing that increases the trust and loyalty of employees, Richter underlines.

This regular column, run in association with Audi, looks at how some of Hungary’s biggest companies involve innovation in their daily practice.