Sandoz AG, a subsidiary of Swiss pharmaceutical group Novartis, is the world’s second-largest generic drugs supplier after Teva, with $9.6 billion in sales last year. The company is based in Holzkirchen, south of Munich, and employees 3,700 people in Germany, and over 26,000 worldwide.
British-born manager Richard Francis studied economics in Manchester and began his career in 1998 at Sanofi Pharmaceuticals. Before moving to the top position at Sandoz in 2014, he spent 13 years at American biotech company Biogen, heading its U.S. business. He sat down with Handelsblatt to discuss trading in an office view of the Boston skyline for the Bavarian Alps – not a hard swap, in his opinion, when you’re a diehard soccer fan.
Mr. Francis, last year you went from an innovative biotech highflyer to a boring generics manufacturer. Have you overcome the shock?
This was not a big shock. At first glance, perhaps it may seem like a contrast. But I see it quite differently, as a logical step in my mission and career.
In what sense?
I always wanted to work in an industry whose products improve the lives of people. In the biotech industry it comes to finding drugs for diseases for which there were previously no treatments. But lack of therapies is not the only problem. High costs prevent patient access to the treatments they need. The generics industry therefore has an equally important role to play. Sandoz alone ensures that some 500 million people have access to goods and affordable medicines worldwide.
But the generics industry needs to live with far more modest margins than the biotech industry.
The business models are certainly very different. Biotech companies as a rule are highly specialized. Here at Sandoz we have a huge portfolio of products, albeit with lower margins than in biotech, but with extremely high volumes.