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Personalizing healthcare through partnership

Interview with Sheri Morin, General Manager of Roche Nederland B.V.

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“Right now, across the entire Roche Group, thousands of trials are under way,” says General Manager of Roche Nederland Sheri Morin. “The group is the eighth largest investor in research and development in the world; we are just one place behind Apple. Here in the Netherlands, we are currently running over 75 clinical trials, involving 1,500 patients. These trials continued throughout the height of the Covid-19 crisis. We were also one of the Roche Group's five key global clinical sites in relation to Covid-19. Although we are mid-sized, we have a very strong footprint and a highly progressive entrepreneurial culture, especially in relation to personalized healthcare.”

The aim of personalized healthcare is to identify differences between patients and increase knowledge about sub-categories of a particular condition to ultimately develop new diagnostic tests and biomarkers, and find target patients to help in the development of new, innovative medicines.

“Personalized healthcare is what really sets Roche apart,” Ms. Morin underlines. “In the past, pharma concerns provided medicines to doctors, who decided whether patients received them or not; sometimes they were not useful and patients didn't benefit. At Roche, we identify the right person for the right medicine at the right time. It's not just about the diagnostic and the drug – those are just two components of many; we look at the whole healthcare eco-system in terms of how we can bring all the components - big data and support initiatives for example – together. We are not a drug provider; we are a value partner.”

At Roche, the word eco-system involves connecting, initiating and integrating, through an alliance of some 30 partners, including patient associations, governments, and hospitals.

The group is the eighth largest investor in research and development in the world; we are just one place behind Apple. Sheri MorinGeneral Manager
Sheri Morin, General Manager

In the Netherlands, the focus is on pharma and diagnostics, and it is also a center for Roche diabetes care. Oncology and cancer medicine is the backbone of the subsidiary, along with immunology treatments, the benefits of which stretch far beyond cancer. Ophthalmology is also a growing area for the Dutch company; other sectors in the pipeline include products for rare diseases and for children's medicine - for muscular arthroscopy, for example.

“The Netherlands is a role model,” notes the General Manager proudly. “We were the first affiliate to adopt progressive and agile ways of working, decision-making and empowerment. We live the purpose of Roche and develop solutions that are desperately needed.”

The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted one of a number of issues for the industry. Even today, many patients have still not had access to vital medicines and treatments. “The Dutch healthcare system has to get people back into normal treatment by latest September. This is a dangerous situation – the untold story,” admits Ms. Morin.

The movement towards personalized healthcare is another challenge. “Big data is a huge theme; data from clinical trials is stored in many different systems, and we want to pull all this together so we can better predict which patient will benefit from which drug. This will ultimately save money,” Ms Morin points out. “However, if this was easy, it would have been done already; data sharing and privacy laws make it very complex. Even a collective approach, involving the European Commission, will take years. Nevertheless, I am immensely proud that our team in the Netherlands has been a catalyst, and has enabled the concept to grow at an incredible pace. In the future we have to make smart choices, and build a healthcare model and eco-system based on partnership.”