What were the reasons that prompted the foundation of BeiGene in 2010?
Twelve years ago, most people were saying that the easy fruit had already been picked in oncology. My co-founder and I had a different view, that a time of change was on the horizon, and that patients needed far more tailored help than they were getting, and more accessible priced medicines. In 2010, only one out of six patients in the world had access to the best cancer medicines, while in the U.S., three out of eight people had trouble making their co-payments. In this context, we started to think of ways to transform the industry to make it more accessible and inspire other players to follow in our path.
What role does your most advanced medicine BRUKINSA play in the revolution that has been sweeping through the oncology field?
BRUKINSA is one of our first big successes, and a strong proof of concept for our internal discovery and development expertise. BeiGene has a team of more than 800 oncology researchers – one of the largest dedicated groups of its kind in the industry – with a singular focus on discovering impactful cancer medicines such as BRUKINSA. We have also forced ourselves to think differently about how we conduct global clinical trials to bring those game-changing therapies to more patients around the world.
90% of the total cost of developing a medicine is tied up in the upfront clinical trial phase, and most clinical trials are run in wealthy countries and thus are not highly inclusive. But if more companies would run global clinical trials, as BeiGene does, we could as an industry reduce the time to enrol and conduct trials, reducing costs overall.
With BRUKINSA and the other therapies in our pipeline, we can enrol our trials more efficiently and manage to lower the cost of development by up to 30% from the average.
In addition, most clinical trials are run through third-party organizations, which have fixed standards that work for hundreds of clients, so they usually avoid changing their systems. For example, patient data is double entered manually, and this leads to mistakes resulting from human error. Because we wanted to apply the latest technology and make the whole system more efficient, we decided to run trials in-house. This has also enabled us to create a broader clinical trials footprint and, ultimately, get the medicines to more people across the world. Now, BeiGene is one of the largest oncology clinical trials sponsors in Australia, and has a clinical footprint in the U.S., Europe, China, South America and South Africa.
BeiGene is listed on three different stock exchanges – what was the rationale behind the listings and the overall access to capital in the industry?
Building a company that develops innovative medicines is an expensive proposition, and BeiGene has been blessed with some great investors with a long-term vision since the very beginning. However, we still needed to go to market and raise money from more investors who share our vision. We have more than 9,000 employees today, more than 40 molecules at the clinical or commercial stage, and our own clinical development team. We are also building a biologics manufacturing and clinical R&D facility outside of Princeton, New Jersey. To accomplish all these ambitious projects and maintain our momentum, a solid cash position is key.
What do you think the impact of the Inflation Reduction Act will be to the development and innovation of oncology drugs?
Making medicines affordable and accessible is in our DNA, so we appreciate the goals of certain provisions in the Act, notably the cap on out-of-pocket costs for Medicare beneficiaries. That said, the negotiation provision is concerning as it fails to recognize how medicine development works, particularly in oncology, and is likely to have a detrimental effect on innovation. We hope that policymakers will revisit some aspects of the IRA and work with key stakeholders, including patient advocacy groups, to help ensure we avoid the unintended consequences that would lead to fewer medicines coming to the market. Policies focused on spurring more robust competition that will help control price while stimulating innovation are needed.
Nowadays, most industry players believe that 75% of the value comes from the U.S., but this view is truncated in certain situations, especially for smaller indications, oncology and small-molecule medicines. Building a strong commercial enterprise around the world can help offset the significant upfront costs of developing medicines, and we strongly believe that offering affordable medicines in places like Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East will add up to substantial value for our business.
How do you see BeiGene's evolution in ten years' time?
Looking into the future, BeiGene will continue to pursue effective strategies to improve patient access to innovative oncology therapies and affordability in partnership with regulators and others in the industry. We are aiming to prove that a broader geographic footprint in running trials can reduce the cost and time of trials, and we have in a very short time proven that we are making real strides in this effort. We are also committed to discovering even more impactful medicines such as BRUKINSA and, hopefully, contribute in a major way to curing cancer. None of this work can be effective without more open partnerships with policymakers and regulators, and we want to work with all stakeholders to create more affordable cancer medicines. All in all, moving the industry toward a more global, volume-based pricing model would be a huge step forward for BeiGene, the industry, and patients around the world. The rising number of new cancer diagnoses is a global health threat that so many of us are fighting; a threat that requires innovative global solutions. That’s why we say, “Cancer has no borders; neither do we.”
- Share on: