"IBSA has 85 patents on ground-breaking pharmaceutical technology and a portfolio that covers 10 therapeutic areas. We are open to international partners for commercial collaboration and contract manufacturing."
Could you briefly introduce IBSA Farmaceutici?
IBSA stands for Institut Biochimique SA and it started as a small Swiss laboratory in Lugano 40 years ago. Under the visionary leadership of its founder, Arturo Licenziati, IBSA transformed into a global company, active in 10 therapeutic areas with a reach in more than 80 countries. Out of 1.600 people in headquarters, branch offices and manufacturing sites, 600 are in Italy, where we have 2 production facilities and 3 R&D centres. IBSA’s journey relies on four pillars – People, Innovation, Quality and Responsibility – of which People and Innovation have a central role in our business model: to take generics to the next level, be it by improving their bioavailability, patient acceptance, or easiness to be administered by physicians, patients, or caregivers. People – as employees and as patients - may discard generics as “just generics,” but we find tremendous opportunities to innovate in this field. By improving the quality of drugs, we improve the quality of life for our patients.
Could you elaborate on IBSA’s key therapies?
IBSA has a vested presence in fertility, including human reproduction and hormonal treatments, such as hormone replacement therapy for sufferers of thyroid issues or other illnesses. We also have a wide portfolio of hyaluronic acid injectable solutions used in osteoarticular therapies – for knees, shoulders, elbows, or other joints. Rather than using genetically engineered microorganisms, we produce hyaluronic acids through biofermentation. We use the same technology in aesthetic medicine.
What are the latest innovations IBSA brings to the market?
IBSA has 85 families of patents on pharma technologies. We collaborated with the University of Milan to work on an orodispersible film (ODF) drug delivery system applied in two molecules: a drug and a food supplement. The first is a medicine used to treat erectile dysfunction. As a dispersible film, the drug dissolves in the mouth without requiring water; it is also easy to carry around as it fits in a wallet and, because it is absorbed at the mouth level, it does not cause stomach distress. The second application of this ODF is for Vitamin D, a globally booming market. Due to the high demand, our production is already at maximum capacity for this product and we are considering production capacity expansions.
What is IBSA’s international footprint and what is your expansion strategy?
We have a portfolio of 200 highly innovative drugs that outperform regular generics, but these do not enjoy an even international presence. With our long history in human reproduction, fertility drugs are indeed globally distributed, just as are our aesthetic medicine products. However, IBSA has a much broader basket with a local footprint and we’d like to launch these products in new markets. We produce diclofenac gel in ODFs - patch, soft gel and capsule – that we export only to a few markets. IBSA is actively looking for distributors in both Southeast Asian countries like Thailand or Vietnam, and in Latin American ones like Brazil or Argentina, who could license out our products.
Additionally, we have contract manufacturing capabilities for high-value, quality drugs. It is important to note that IBSA is not a pure CMO ready to produce high quantities at small prices: we are ready to lend our technologies to partners for premium products to increase our asset intensity.
How do you think Italy-made generics are received on international markets?
The “Made in Italy” brand is not a label that speaks of Ferrari or Gucci brands alone; in fact, the Italian pride stands in our high-level technology. Italy is the largest pharma producer in Europe, battling with Germany for this title, but Germany’s economy is larger and its population bigger than Italy’s by 20 million people. Italy has an ecosystem that enables top-notch quality and consistency. These attributes guarantee a very positive reputation abroad.
Do you have a final message?
When the pandemic started, we gave ourselves three priorities: the safety of our people, production continuity and financial performance. I am happy to say we have been successful in all three, guarding our people’s health and not losing a single production day. We closed 2020 with profits and we are poised for double-digit growth in 2021. The future of IBSA is international growth and we invite global partners who share the same passion for quality and innovation to be a part of our success story.