Personal destinies are our drive

Interview with Michael Lugez, General Manager of CH and A at Bristol Myers Squibb SA

Bristol Myers Squibb Company Headquarters
At the global collaboration hub in Boudry, around 1,000 employees work on solutions to alleviate serious illnesses and thus improve the lives of patients

The slogan 'Making the world a better place' sounds like a well-known platitude, but for the biopharma giant Bristol Myers Squibb, it is much more than that: the company wants sick people to find their way back to life and does everything to ensure that the right medications and therapies reach those who need them. The Swiss subsidiary Bristol Myers Squibb SA also commits to this maxim, as emphasized by managing director Michael Lugez in the interview.

Economic Forum: Mr. Lugez, BMS can look back on a long and successful history.

Michael Lugez: Oh, that's true. Squibb was founded in 1858 and was successful with pharmaceuticals and later penicillin. Bristol Myers was formed in 1898 through an acquisition. After success with toothpaste and later penicillin, antibiotics came at Bristol Myers after World War II. The competition ended in 1989 with the merger of both companies. Since then, we have been working on the research, development, and delivery of innovative drugs that give hope to patients with serious illnesses.

Economic Forum: Despite your global size, the focus is on the individual.

Michael Lugez, General Manager Switzerland and Austria for Bristol Myers Squibb SA
Michael Lugez, General Manager Switzerland and Austria for Bristol Myers Squibb SA

Michael Lugez: We all work for this company because we have people in our surroundings who suffer from a disease. Our company's guiding principle is to improve the suffering of people through innovative drugs. Thus, we all have a personal motivation – a passion for patients.

Economic Forum: What is your structure in Switzerland?

Michael Lugez: In Switzerland, we employ around 1,000 people at two sites. At our global collaboration hub in Boudry, there is both the production with about 450 employees, as well as all global functions with about 550 employees, while in Steinhausen, there are nearly 150 employees. In Austria, which I also oversee as General Manager, there is a branch with 110 employees. Our parent company is present in 85 countries, and we in Switzerland export to 100 countries worldwide. The group's turnover is 46.2 billion USD.

The Bristol Myers Squibb Facility in Boudry, Switzerland
The Bristol Myers Squibb Facility in Boudry, Switzerland
Bristol Myers Squibb Team Photo
Together active – the employee team of Bristol Myers Squibb in Switzerland is committed not only to the health of others, but also becomes active itself

Economic Forum: What diseases does your research focus on?

Michael Lugez: We develop innovative drugs and are also concerned with indication expansions of existing drugs. This means we look at whether there are other diseases in which a certain existing drug is effective. With our work, we support treatment in areas such as oncology, hematology, and immunology, as well as cardiovascular diseases. Innovation is what sets us apart. We focus on advances in these therapy areas because we are confident that we can offer patients real added value in treatments. Over the past two years, we have launched nine new products and various indication expansions. We also work with partners on many products.

Economic Forum: Which priorities are particularly important?

Michael Lugez: We are among the leading companies in conducting clinical trials in Switzerland. Especially with cancer, the second most common cause of death, we do everything we can to ensure that patients have timely access to novel drugs. Thus, we can improve the lives of patients through our clinical research. We are strong in oncology, as well as cardiovascular diseases, and neurology is becoming increasingly important.

Economic Forum: Who are your customers?

Michael Lugez: These are predominantly pharmacies and hospitals, depending on whether treatment is outpatient or inpatient.

Economic Forum: Has anything changed due to Covid?

Michael Lugez: During the pandemic, many people did not go to the doctor, and diseases were delayed and detected too late. This partially impaired the chance of successful treatment. On the other hand, digital development accelerated during Covid. Cooperations were made possible by digital methods, enabling research results to be delivered faster. In 2019, we completed a merger and acquired the company Celgene, and despite Covid, we managed to unite the two cultures and today we act as one team. That is a success story.

Bristol Myers Squibb Laboratory Work
Employees verify the quality of the drugs produced in Boudry
Bristol Myers Squibb Laboratory

Economic Forum: What makes success?

Michael Lugez: It's the people in our company, and that's not just a slogan. Everyone enjoys working here, and we find it easy to attract and retain new professionals. We invest in our employees, and this is reflected in high motivation and the desire to make a difference for patients.

Economic Forum: How do you describe your corporate culture?

Michael Lugez: Our culture is knowledge-driven, but the human factor is important and omnipresent. The leaders often have grown within our inner ranks.

Economic Forum: What are your goals for the coming years?

Michael Lugez: Our drugs should be accessible to everyone. For this, doctors, health insurance companies, and other stakeholders such as authorities need to be informed and know our products. This policy of information is important. In addition, we want to develop new products and promote collaborations. Innovation is important in our industry. Besides, we aim to find and keep new employees because good employees are, as said, the foundation of our success. We all have personal contact with the sick, and their fates motivate us anew every day.