The Slovenia Times

Billions in investments show company's commitment to Slovenia, says Novartis Slovenia country president

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Pharmaceutical giant Novartis has so far invested just over EUR 3.4 billion in Slovenia and together with the purchase consideration for Lek the figure amounts to over EUR 5.4 billion. This proves that Novartis is committed to staying active here, says country president of Novartis Slovenia Aymeric Royere.

Speaking to the Slovenian Press Agency ahead of the launch of a new investment in Mengeš, Royere said that the company has invested EUR 400 million in Slovenia in the last two years alone.

"A portion of this amount, EUR 111 million, is set aside for the new Centre for the Development of Biotherapeutics in Mengeš, which will create a scientific environment that will strengthen capacity in the early stage of technical development of biotherapeutics," he said.

With the new investment, Novartis is "solidifying Slovenia's position as a key location for the development and production of innovative biotherapeutics. This also means around 100 new jobs. Part of the investment will go towards expanding the production of biologics, which is essential for Novartis Slovenia as a whole," Royere said.

He added that the Mengeš location has a long-standing tradition both in the chemical production of active substances and biotherapeutics. It is already home to the largest centre for modern innovative biotechnology in Slovenia, with around 800 employees in Technical R&D and production. In total, the workforce in Mengeš numbers 1,200 people.

Novartis also has ongoing investments in Ljubljana where they are currently building new state of the art facilities for the production of aseptics. They also plan to upgrade the production of their range of solids, for which there is great demand. "In Ljubljana we'll be able to produce practically all solid dosage forms that Novartis has."

Turning to the proposed separation of Sandoz from Novartis, Royere said that if the split-off happens in the second half of this year, it will make Novartis a leading innovative pharmaceutical company in Slovenia.

"It will be focused on five core therapeutic areas: cardiovascular, immunology, neuroscience, solid tumours and haematology. These key areas will be supported by five hi-tech platforms: Chemistry, Biotherapeutics, xRNA, Radioligand, Gene & Cell Therapy. Slovenia will take part in all five platforms," he said.

"Ljubljana will house our quality control centre, manufacturing of solids and aseptics, and marketing as well as key corporate and support functions; Technical R&D, biotherapeutics and active substances for innovative medicines will be in Mengeš."

Both sites will employ over 3,500 employees in total with the number expected to rise once the ongoing investments are finalized.

Novartis will operate in Slovenia through two companies: Novartis d.o.o. and its existing subsidiary Novartis Pharma Services Inc. Most jobs will be in the former, which is focused on Technical R&D, small and large molecule production and key corporate and support functions, while the latter will keep working on marketing innovative pharmaceuticals on the Slovenian market.

"Slovenia is very important to Novartis' business strategy since half of the company's priority innovative medicines for patients in Slovenia and worldwide are supported here at various stages of development and production. With a 10% market share, we are the leading provider of medicines in Slovenia and a key partner of the healthcare system. All Novartis' innovative medicines are available and accessible to patients in Slovenia, which is very important," Royere said.

He also pointed to some of the challenges they are facing in Slovenia. "I am here only a few months, so I don't have full picture yet, but would mention recruitment as one of them. That is why Novartis is bringing together know-how and talent from different industries.

"We are creating exceptional opportunities for the development of talent and unleashing the potential of our colleagues," he said. People in Slovenia have a desire to be innovative, which is great for further development of the business. "We can do new things in Slovenia with a high probability of success," he pointed out.

Royere also noted that Slovenia's accessibility to innovative drugs is quite good but still lags behind some other European countries it wants to compare itself with, such as Scandinavian countries, Great Britain, Austria and Germany.

The pharmaceutical market in Slovenia is very dynamic, recording a 9% growth in innovative medicines, which is probably at the upper end of what we see in Europe. "Novartis co-creates this growth primarily through successful launches of new innovative medicines."

In terms of workforce, Royere feels that Slovenia is in a similar position as other countries. "Slovenia has practically zero unemployment which is great for Slovenian society but not so much for us because we need new employees both in manufacturing and laboratories, as well as elsewhere," he said.

The company plans to keep cooperating with schools and scientific institutions in Slovenia and the broader region. However, this will likely not fill the recruitment gap and Novartis may need also have to look for workers in other countries.

With this aim in mind, they will once again prepare a BioCamp, where 40 students will be able to listen to lectures by experts. This year's theme will be: Reimagining cancer treatment. Where cutting-edge science meets next generation technologies.


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