Roche Pharmaceuticals CEO Bill Anderson

Open letter from Bill Anderson

Let’s not lose the lesson that science and societal action are giving us

By Bill Anderson, CEO Roche Pharmaceuticals
Published 28 May 2020

A lesson of COVID-19? When we foster a culture of global collaboration, anything is possible, says Roche Pharmaceuticals CEO Bill Anderson. We must carry that same spirit of solidarity forward in fighting other diseases beyond the pandemic.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the contributions of everyone around the world – from frontline workers, researchers and industry, to individuals adapting their daily ways to protect their health and that of their community – demonstrate the strength of societal action. The only way we will overcome this disease is if everyone plays their part.

In the healthcare industry, we have a clear role to play in understanding, evaluating and making available diagnostics and medicines to identify and treat patients with this disease. To achieve this, now more than ever I am reminded of the importance of two things …

Evidence-based decision making has never been more important

Frontline healthcare providers are working tirelessly to treat people with COVID-19, and are forced by the sudden onset of the pandemic to press ahead without the benefit of much rigorous scientific evidence, such as would normally be available. To date, experimental treatments for COVID-19 include varied approaches to both fighting the virus directly, as well as managing the symptoms of the disease. But so much research remains to be done to properly understand, manage and control this disease – and others like it in the future.

With robust, randomized, controlled clinical trials we can provide physicians, regulators and healthcare systems the evidence they need to make the best decisions for patients. And now, more than ever, speed and scientific rigor must be realized together.

When it comes to running clinical trials (not just for COVID-19), the disruption we’ve recently faced has also catalyzed the possibility of new ways of working. Patients who previously would have had face-to-face check-ups are now speaking with their doctors in online consultations. Monitoring is taking place through digital apps. And treatments that would previously have required hospital visits are being provided in people’s homes under the care of trained healthcare workers – in turn accelerating the use of new technologies in generating evidence and increasing understanding.

We must come together to pursue the common good

When we foster a culture of collaboration throughout our community, anything is possible. I have seen time and again the impossible become possible when we break down boundaries and bring the best minds to the table to address a common need.

Within the large, complex healthcare and life-science organizations, the severity of this pandemic has motivated us to break down silos and work across countries and functions with a speed and fluidity never before seen. But to achieve quantum advances in the fight against the pandemic we all have to reach outside our own organizations and combine forces with external partners – bringing the best of what we and they have achieved.

I see it with the rapid sharing of experience taking place between physicians, researchers and public health specialists across the globe. It’s happening with cooperation between industry and regulatory partners, who are working faster than we ever dreamed possible. And the ultimate thanks goes to the collaboration across hundreds of hospitals and research partners around the world who are enrolling patients to clinical trials and managing the care of people suffering the effects of COVID-19.

Science and societal action have reminded us over recent months that we are unified in our determination to understand and overcome this disease. We learn more and accomplish more together. In partnership, I’m confident we will overcome the scourge of COVID-19 in the months ahead. Let’s not lose the lesson, though. Why not bring the same sense of urgency and commitment to boundaryless collaboration to the fight against cancer when COVID-19 is behind us!


Bill Anderson
CEO Roche Pharmaceuticals

Tags: People, Culture, We are Roche