Dr Stamen Bankovski, General Manager of Astellas for Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania: "In the next five years we expect significant breakthrough"
Astellas is a global pharmaceutical company, a leader in the development of innovative drugs that target serious diseases with high levels of social importance. It aims to offer to patients and healthcare organisations and professionals not just medical products, but a holistic approach that covers from diagnosis to treatment to prognosis of the condition. The company is present in over 50 countries around the world. Dr Stamen Bankovski is Astella's CEO for Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania. He joined the company in 2014 and has over 25 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry.
Dr Bankovski, besides being the CEO of Astellas Bulgaria, you are also the Chairman of the Management Board of the Association of the Research-Based Pharmaceutical Manufacturers in Bulgaria (ARPharM). What are the priorities of the Association and of the pharmaceutical industry in the country?
The Association of the Research-Based Pharmaceutical Manufacturers in Bulgaria unites 23 international companies that invest in the research and development of new drug therapies for patients. Without new medicines millions of people around the world would not be alive today; science gave them a second chance. Many more would not have the opportunity to live a normal life.
We are here to stop patients' suffering, to prolong their life and to improve its quality. Every year, the European Medicines Agency approves between 40 and 50 new drug therapies. Less than half of these reach the Bulgarian patients, and this takes a lag of over 2 years. We work together with the healthcare institutions to change this and to improve the access of the Bulgarian patients to new high-tech drug therapies.
In the following years, we are expecting new revolutionary discoveries in the field of pharmaceutical science that will radically change the treatment of a number of diseases. Genetic therapies, for example, treat diseases by transmitting genetic material in target cells aiming to correct a faulty gene or to add a missing one. Tumour-agnostic therapies act on the basis of the tumour's unique genetic profile, regardless of the place where it appeared for the first time. Bispecific monoclonal antibodies activate the patient's Т-cells and immune system, and activate the tumour cells' "programmed death." New therapies are able to modify Alzheimer's disease and to halt its progress. Remyelinating therapies have the potential to not only stop diseases such as multiple sclerosis, but to also help the patient's recovery.
Of course, the Association's activities go beyond this. We support healthcare policies that put patients in the centre of the system and lead to better health results. In 2019, together with the Bulgarian Medical Association and the Bulgarian Pharmaceutical Union we started the initiative "Together for more heath," because we all need a stable and efficient healthcare system oriented towards the individual's health and particular health needs. By paying attention to the policies and investments in the healthcare sector through the eyes of the main stakeholders, we aim to attract more public investments in the healthcare sector, to create more value for the society and to support healthcare policies that lead to improved productivity and improvement of the wellbeing of the people and the society as a whole.
It is crucial that the policies for overcoming these challenges include the sustainable development and funding of the healthcare system, focused on strengthening preventive care and early diagnosis, improvement of the capacity, accessibility and achieved healthcare results. It is also important to continue the modernisation by implementation of modern digital technologies both in healthcare activities and the management of the healthcare system.
The Covid-19 pandemic clearly demonstrated that the healthcare system is a vital element in national security. The provision of healthcare services and the supply of sustainable deliveries of modern medicine products that meet the rising needs of the Bulgarian patients of effective treatment requires a well funded healthcare system that is at the foundation of the economy and the wellbeing of each society.
Astellas is one of the three companies that founded the Japan-Bulgaria Business Association. You are a member of its Board of Directors. What are the Association's goals and plans?
Our main goals and efforts are targeted towards development of a sustainable business environment for Japanese companies in Bulgaria, mutually beneficial partnerships and the successful attraction and encouragement of new investments in the country. We are actively working in this direction. We met with Bulgarian President Rumen Radev and organised a joint discussion with the Ministry of the Economy and Industry with the support of the Embassy of Japan in Bulgaria. During the meeting it transpired that in Bulgaria there are currently active Japanese projects amounting 320 million leva, which have created about 7,000 new jobs. I am an optimist for the future and I believe that we can attract more Japanese investments to the country. The companies that are members of the Association have proven that we can successfully grow our business in Bulgaria. We can help with our experience for the improvement of the business environment in different fields such as regulations, education, healthcare and others.
Astellas is also known for its well developed social responsibility policies. Tell us more about your most significant CSR campaigns.
Two of the directions where we have focused for years are prostate cancer and organ donorship and transplantations. Both topics are socially important and affect a significant part of the society. This is why we aim that our efforts are not a one-time thing, but are regular and keep developing in order to reach the people. Our prostate cancer campaign in 2022 was under the motto "My health is my responsibility." With it we wanted to put the accent on each man's personal responsibility to take care of their own health. The aim is with a number of activities to provoke men to pay attention to their health and to not miss the regular prophylactic examinations for the PSA marker (prostate specific antigen) in the blood, connected to prostate carcinoma. We are extremely thankful to Professor Ivan Dudov, Professor Marin Georgiev and Mr Ivan Lechev for their eagerness to join and to become the ambassadors of our campaign, thus helping our message to reach more men.