Bayer: Addressing Unmet Medical Needs In Asia-Pacific

ClausZielerOn June 1st 2015, Mr Claus Zieler was appointed Senior Vice-President and Head of Commercial Operations, Bayer Pharmaceuticals Asia Pacific, based in Singapore. Mr Zieler has around 25 years of Sales & Marketing and General Management experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry. Previously, he held the position of Head of Business Unit Cardiovascular & Neurology at Bayer Yakuhin, Ltd. in Japan.

Mr Zieler began his professional career with Schering AG, as Management Trainee in 1991 and since then he undertook roles of increasing responsibility across many regions. He has worked in various Marketing and General Management positions in Europe, Latin America, USA and Japan.

Mr Zieler has a Bachelor of Arts in Molecular Biology from Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, USA, Master of Science in Molecular Biology from University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, USA, and an MBA from INSEAD, Fontainebleau, France. Mr Zieler is married with three children.

In an email interview with Biotechin.asia, Mr. Zieler shed some light about how Bayer is trying to address unmet medical needs in Asia.

How are the medical needs in Asia different from other parts of the world? How are patients’ concerns in Asia-Pacific unique to the area?

The healthcare needs in Asia Pacific are broadly similar to those we face globally, driven by an aging and fast expanding population. The region alone will expand by more than 500 million people by 2050 and the proportion of elderly (those 60 years old and above) will double from 12 to 24 per cent at the same time. This is driving an increase in difficult-to-treat medical conditions such as cancer, stroke, thrombosis and eye diseases that are related to aging and diabetes in the region. New and better medicines are urgently needed as many of these diseases are still not adequately treated despite current medical advances.

How does Bayer plan to alleviate the pressures an ageing population has on the countries in Asia Pacific?

We are committed to delivering “science for a better life” by addressing unmet medical needs through scientific progress and innovation, and facilitating medical education and knowledge sharing, thus helping the growing group of senior citizens live a life that is as active as possible. At the same time, we want to encourage and help educate younger generations to take well-informed measures to prevent chronic diseases so they can stay healthy in their senior years.

Drawing upon our strengths as a science-based company, we are continuously working on innovative treatment options for chronic and age-related conditions, which typically include cardiovascular diseases such as stroke and heart attacks, eye disorders and cancer. We have also made partnering and collaboration a core part of our company’s innovation strategy. Through our three innovation centres in Asia (Singapore, Beijing, and Osaka), we have been leveraging the innovation potential of the scientific hotspots in the region and building long-term relationships with our excellent partners in Asia Pacific.

In this regard, our collaborative partnerships with academia in Singapore, for example, have produced positive outcomes for gastric and liver cancers, which are leading causes of cancer death in Asia. These partnerships also contribute to our clinical trial activities in the region. The number of ongoing clinical trials that Bayer conducted has more than tripled from 21 in 2007 to 68 in Asia Pacific in 2015. These trials provide insights critical to understanding the unmet needs in the region.

At the same time, our recently introduced products, such as the anticoagulant Rivaroxaban and eye medicine Aflibercept as well as our portfolio of cancer therapies, continue to address the growing trends of difficult-to-treat medical conditions such as cancer, stroke, thrombosis and eye diseases in the region.

Do you think the need of medical innovations in Asia is being met? Why is that so?

There is still a high unmet medical need in the region as difficult-to-treat medical conditions such as cancer, stroke, thrombosis and eye diseases that are related to aging and diabetes are still not adequately treated despite current medical advances.

The good news is that there is a conducive environment for driving medical innovations across many countries in Asia, such as Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan. They are well supported by government policies, funding at academic institutions, strong infrastructures, skilled talent pools, and increasing start-up activities, which are important factors to support partnerships for bringing to market medical innovations that benefit patients.

What do you think is the cause of the spike or upward trend in cardiovascular diseases in Asia? What do you think are some life-style changes people in Asia-pacific region need to lead a healthier life?

Cardiovascular diseases are an area of high unmet need in the region. It is a leading cause of death in the region, accounting for 8.2 million cases of mortality in 2015. This is an increase of 21% from 6.8 million in 2005. Increased death due to cardiovascular diseases could generally be due to unhealthy diets, smoking, and sedentary lifestyles, which are often associated with urbanisation. There are additional risk factors for specific types of

There are additional risk factors for specific types of cardiovascular related conditions. For example, in stroke, which is a significant cause of cardiovascular death, a condition called atrial fibrillation (AF) increases the risk of stroke caused by blood clots (ischaemic stroke) by 5-fold. The risk factors for AF include: advancing age, especially above 50 years, and male gender, hypertension, structural heart disease, especially heart failure, and obesity. Besides life-style changes, it is also important to use a novel oral anticoagulant (NOAC) for preventing stroke due to AF.

How do you carry out the data collection necessary to evaluate the cardiovascular health situation in Asia?

Through in-house “real world” studies, and exchanges with our network of excellent partners in the region, we are gaining an understanding of the burden of cardiovascular diseases in Asia Pacific.

For example, we are working with National University Health System (NUHS) in Singapore on an ASIAN-HF (Asian Sudden Cardiac Death in Heart Failure) study which collects prospective data regarding demographics, risk factors, and outcomes of approximately 8,000 Asian patients under treatment for heart failure (HF). The ASIAN-HF registry is expected to advance the understanding of the burden and predictors of death and hospitalisation among these patients.

Whom are you planning to collaborate within Asia? Why?

With support from the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), we have been working together with research and clinical institutions in Singapore to foster translational and clinical research over the past eight years. We will continue to build on these partnerships as well as seek new partnership opportunities in the region.

There is a growing community of start-ups, government supported spin-offs and biotech firms in the region. We are regularly watching and connecting with these companies to explore collaboration. We also see good response for our Grants4Targets initiative in Asia Pacific, with many applications received from many countries across the region. We will continue to leverage our open innovation platforms to extend our reach in the innovation community.

What do you think of the healthcare ecosystem in Singapore?

There is a conducive environment for driving medical innovation in Singapore. Research is well supported by the government, and labs and hospitals are well-equipped. The scientific community has a lot of expertise and attracts renowned scientists from around the world.

Singapore’s diverse population also makes it a good location to study diseases across different ethnicities, including Chinese, Indian, and Malays, which cover a large part of the population within Asia. We also see increasing interest from the government and academic institutions to promote industry collaboration with funding from the government through grant programmes and support from the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) to facilitate such collaborations.

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