Interview: Alberto Álvarez Saavedra
Where does the biotechnology segment stand in relation to international standards?
ALBERTO ÁLVAREZ SAAVEDRA: The country’s biotechnology industry is a regional leader with Argentina holding the unique position in Latin America of having two Nobel Prizes in biology. This is essentially a direct consequence of the large amount of investment that local companies have made in the past decades. These companies span the pharmaceutical, foodstuffs, energy and wine-growing industries, among others. In order to continue along this path, the Argentine Chamber of Biotechnology – which gathers together many of the leading voices in the industry – recently signed an agreement with the government to promote investment, strengthen value transfer from research to production, increase exports and develop quality jobs. We aim to build on our existing pool of human capital to take another step forward in boosting our overall competitiveness.
How might existing regulations around intellectual property change in the near future?
ÁLVAREZ SAAVEDRA: Patents were initiated with the intention of highlighting a particular scientific discovery so that others could invest in improvements or develop applications for the technology. However, different countries protect different domains and sometimes issue patents without real innovation, with a significant impact on health budgets. There is a strong possibility that in the next decade we might see reforms to the global patenting system to adapt it to the new wave of developments in high-value biology and oncology products. We will have to find a new means of recognising the value of a certain scientific discovery, while at the same time granting international access to new products or treatments. This is essentially a matter of seamlessly combining ethics with business. New models are being applied and evaluated, including compulsory licensing, which allows any public or private entity to replicate a given innovation via royalty payments. Whatever the case may be, the country will need to adapt its current patent regulations to comply with international standards.
What opportunities exist for the local pharmaceutical industry to compete in international markets?
ÁLVAREZ SAAVEDRA: Today there are 10 Argentine companies within the top-500 global pharmaceutical firms. In the past, local companies were much more domestically orientated, given the large growth opportunities provided by the national market. However, due to cyclical ups and downs in our economy, companies decided to enter regional and international markets. In some cases, international business represents a larger percentage of total income than local business for some Argentine firms. Today the reality is that our top-10 local firms are very much present in the international market, and particularly in neighbouring countries in the region such as Chile, Colombia, Peru and Uruguay. Their investment in human resources have therefore been significant. Part of the reason for this successful regional expansion is the proficiency and expertise of our domestic regulator, the National Authority of Medicine, Food and Medical Technology (Administración Nacional de Medicamentos, Alimentos y Tecnología Médica, ANMAT). ANMAT is considered very highly by most countries in Latin America. Looking ahead, it is clear that the country has the potential to compete with powerhouses like India and China; however, instead of just competing for higher volumes and lower prices, it would be better to concentrate on niche areas where our experience and scientific expertise might be better utilised – for example, the biosimilars segment.
In any case, the domestic pharmaceutical industry, along with the government, has designed a national plan which lays out the sector’s growth trajectory until 2030. Regardless of which direction we choose, we need to aim for improved production standards as this will allow our industry to reach the next level.
You have reached the limit of premium articles you can view for free.
Choose from the options below to purchase print or digital editions of our Reports. You can also purchase a website subscription giving you unlimited access to all of our Reports online for 12 months.
If you have already purchased this Report or have a website subscription, please login to continue.