Working Life: Philippe Bastide, Head of Biosimilars, Mundipharma

pharmafile | November 12, 2018 | Feature | Business Services, Manufacturing and Production, Medical Communications, Research and Development, Sales and Marketing Cancer, Mundipharma, Philippe Bastide, biosimilars, leukaemia 

“Don’t conform to what people want – take risks. The people who make a big difference are the ones who take risks in uncertain times”

How did you come to your current position as Head of Biosimilars at Mundipharma?

I created VectorLab with Marc de Garidel, the Chairman of Ipsen. We needed funding to develop our Onco/Haemato early stage compound, so I met with Alberto Martinez the CEO of Mundipharma, and we discussed funding. I was telling him I was the Lead of Biosimilars at Amgen in Europe and then Head of Biosimilars for Shire around the world, and he was interested. Then a few months later, Chris Surridge, who is the Director of Strategy and Commercial Excellence at Mundipharma International, came back to me and said he wanted to talk biosimilars with me. He asked me if I would come to work in the UK, and I said why not? At that time Mundipharma was about to split the responsibility for the commercial oncology and biosimilar platforms and they sought to really lead in biosimilars, and they proposed that I do that, and I took the challenge.

What fuelled your interest in biosimilars?

For a few years biosimilars have been a very key segment in the biologics world and it has become one of the fastest-growing specialties today – from a business standpoint it is very important. As well, there is a real need in terms of savings. There is constant innovation in medicines and biosimilars are needed to create savings in order to allow the healthcare budget to be sustainable.

On a more personal standpoint, I am a pharmacist by training, and I had cancer myself; thirteen years ago I had leukaemia. At that time I was leading the oncology business of Amgen in France, and I was very privileged and lucky to get the best treatments. But for many people there is not that possibility; it’s not fair and it’s not noble. So if we can remedy that situation, it’s something that makes a lot of sense and something that, from a humanistic standpoint, makes sense as well.

What continues to drive you forward in your career?

It has always been the challenge that has motivated me – the opportunity to take risks and the possibility of working with very high level, clever and diverse people. Environment is also very important, and this is one of the reasons I joined Alberto and the Mundipharma network. I’ve worked in big companies but have built my own company as well – some kind of a marginal animal within the whole pharmaceutical landscape. And I like environments that really accept and respect strong personalities and people thinking differently. In that regard, I am in the right place here in Mundipharma.

How does Mundipharma compare to other companies?

It’s very fast. There’s a lot of agile decision making; we have access to the real decision making people. It’s a family owned company and these people are very willing to support innovative ideas. We don’t have enormous amounts of resources; we have to work a lot. We are very empowered at this level; in the same day you go from very strategic questions to extremely operational ones. It’s very diverse, it’s very business orientated, so I like it.

What differences have you noticed between the larger and smaller companies that you have worked in during your career?

They are very different. When you are working as a junior at a big company you learn how to work, you learn how to structure. It’s a lot of process, you need a lot of rigour; everything is data driven. When you come to smaller companies you don’t have a lot of data, so you don’t have 100% of the data to decide – you decide with 60-70% of the data, so there’s more risk, but it’s quite complementary as I see it. If you were to ask me where the fun is, I would say in the mid to small companies.

Who has inspired you during your career?

My dad. He was a retail pharmacist and led a company which is more than 1,500 people. He inspired me a lot, even though I decided not to go with the family thing because I did not feel I needed to be the same as my dad. Additionally, my uncle inspired me, despite being in a completely different business – the wine business. He was a fantastic kind of entrepreneur who combined both business and human qualities.

My partner in business, Marc de Garidel, has also been a great inspiration for me. He is the former CEO of Ipsen where he had tremendous success. He’s now the chairman and CEO of Corvidia in Boston. He’s my partner in Vector Lab and he was my boss in Amgen at the time I had cancer. He has been a great example for me that you can be a good person and a good boss at the same time; I’ve seen many people be a good boss and not necessarily a good person; or a good person but not necessarily a good boss, but Marc was both.

How did your experiences with cancer affect your career?

For me “the patient” is not a vague conceptual notion. I can see my own plastic bubble; I was very close to dying four times in my life. You take life the way it comes obviously but every day is a great day, because it’s a day you could not have been here. And once again, I was lucky to have the best treatments available, but it has motivated me to give back as well. That is what has motivated me – I like to give back.

How do you maintain a work life balance?

This is a very difficult point. I normally spend four days a week out of my house. So, you know, it’s not the best thing for my family and it is unbalanced towards my job. So when I am home I try to be as present as possible. We have four kids and it’s a big job for my wife as well. Apart from that, I started tennis at the age of six and never stopped. It has always been a passion of mine and it is a fantastic way to totally detach myself from the business aspect. More than sport, tennis is a kid’s game – it’s so fun. You spend two hours at the tennis courts, and you let the pressure out with it. I spend too much of my time on planes and things like that; it’s difficult to get a good work balance. The reality is we have quite a lot of pressure and so you need to find positive outlets to relieve some of that pressure.

What advice would you give to those interested in following a path similar to yours?

I couldn’t consider myself as an example. I think young people are so important and so inspiring, we learn so much from them. What I want to say to them is: take risks. Don’t think just like the others. Get out of mindset to follow the same path and go the way everyone else goes. Think by yourself. Think new ideas. Really, that’s the key thing. I see too many people thinking in the same way, in the same direction. Often in the schools and especially in the business schools, people are formatted to think exactly the same. They all work in the same way. Think different. Be yourself!

I am super inspired by the guys that are working on the CAR T therapies.  We are living in great times right now, full of opportunities. Watch the world, be creative and don’t be frightened of failure. Don’t conform to what people want – take risks. The people who make a big difference are the ones who take risks in uncertain times.

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