Roche has always been in a state of dynamic flux
What is happening at the moment in science is great for patients, great for physicians but also great for us who are developing medicinal products.
A conversation with Colin Wernsdörfer and Georg Isbary about filled product pipelines, new and old main foundations and the future of medicine.
You were both originally physicians. How did you become involved in the pharmaceutical industry?
Colin Wernsdörfer: In the beginning, the pharmaceutical industry actually was like a black box for me. But I simply wanted to find out what I could additionally achieve with my medical training. My original idea was to try it out for a year and if I didn't like it, to switch back to practice work.
Georg Isbary: I had come from clinical work, too, and did not exactly know what to expect. But I have never regretted it for a moment. The development opportunities are tremendous.
For example as Head of Medical Affairs in neuroscience...
Colin, in your role you are trying to help develop a new mainstay at Roche. Are you confronted with a black box again?
Colin: Not at all. After all, we didn't start at zero. The indications and product developments are quite far advanced. The large Product-Pipeline was also the main reason for pursuing this path. Over my whole career in pharmaceuticals, I have already launched more than ten products and it simply remains the salt in the soup. Above all because the medical need is still present. But of course this not only applies for neuroscience.
Georg, you are Medical Therapeutic Area Lead in the area of oncology. In oncology, Roche has already been market leader for many years. Does this rather make things easier or more difficult?
Georg: The experience helps of course. But also in oncology there are still many areas that are not yet covered by current medicinal drugs. However, the experience from the past is incorporated into future developments and it is possible that existing medicinal products may be beneficially combined with future ones.
In medicine everything is about the future. How can I picture this right now?
Georg: In the past, the only therapeutic option in oncology was chemotherapy. Through today's diagnostic possibilities and the improved understanding of the tumours, it is now possible to evaluate which therapy approach is best for which patient and this corresponds to personalized medicine. In addition, there are great hopes for the cancer immunotherapy, where tumour-specific mechanisms, with which the tumour tries to overcome the body's own immune defence, are resolved.
Colin: Personalized Health Care plays a very large role here with us. It is a huge advantage that in addition to this we have our own diagnostics sector.
Are we at the threshold of a transition in the sector?
Colin: Roche has always been in a state of dynamic flux. We do not market generics but create innovations. Today, there are very many possibilities. This is not a matter of course, but the main thing is to also make something out of the options. How can I, in spite of the rapid progress, safely bring a medicinal product to the patients? In addition, we do not want to be thrown off balance through progress. Nevertheless, it is great to be involved while the medical environment is changing.
Do you also have a vision over and above this?
Georg: In the future, very effective vaccines will probably become available: Then I take a close look at the tumour of a patient, investigate which genetic changes are present in the different tumour cells compared to the "healthy" cells and teach the immune system exactly how to proceed against these cells. This would be the crowning achievement of Personalized Health Care: when individual medicinal products are developed for every patient. And this is of course what we are working towards at Roche.
Are you also drawing closer to the profession as physician again through the newly won possibilities?
Georg: We all have the desire to help as many patients as well as possible. This means developing particularly effective therapies that maintain the quality of life of the patient or even improve it and which are associated with the least possible adverse reactions. What is happening at the moment in science is great for patients, great for physicians but also great for us who are developing medicinal products.
Colin: We are both physicians. Being a physician does not stop in our role. Each of us has seen patients and will never forget them.