The COVID-19 pandemic has been a wake-up call for every business, but none more so than biotech companies at the forefront of medical research and development. It has galvanised researchers around the world to cooperate in a global effort to stem the pandemic’s toll.
Among those contributing to those efforts is LFB Group, a French biopharmaceutical company, founded in 1994 as GIP LFB (Public Interest Group) Pharmaceutical. It morphed into LFB SA in 2006, a majority State-owned limited company, with the creation of LFB Biomedicaments and LFB Biotechnologies as French subsidiaries.
In 2017, the board decided it was in a “difficult” situation and the company needed new leadership and a new direction. With impeccable credentials in the biopharmaceuticals industry from previous roles at Bayer, Fournier Pharma and ALK, Denis Delval was duly appointed CEO of LFB in 2018.
He is also a graduate of ESSEC and INSEAD business schools with a PhD in Pharmacy. Denis tells The CEO Magazine he took on the role at LFB primarily because he could see longerterm opportunities for the company once it was revitalised. “I could see potential in the company despite the difficulties,” he recalls.
“I would be able to turn around the difficulties, and after that first phase, there would be growth opportunities for the company. My first step was to outline and then validate a new strategic road map to put the company back on track.”
Denis refocused the company on its core business: the development, production and marketing of its plasma-derived and recombinant medicinal products, concentrating on four of its 15 products. It also applied its efforts to enhancing its visibility in France, the US, Mexico, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain, Turkey and the UK.
LFB research grant in immunology
LFB has established a research grant in the field of immunology to encourage young healthcare professionals to submit research projects that may improve the management of immunoglobulin-treated patients and their quality of life. In 2021, two grants of €15,000 will be awarded: one for a project in immunodeficiencies and another in immunemediated neuropathies.
His third focus was improving and modernising its production activities, fixing inefficiencies at the existing site and building a new production site as the cornerstone of its future growth. A €550 million investment, the facility is the largest pharmaceutical construction project in France.
“We have fixed our industrial issues and have started to build the new plant. We are already well advanced in the construction – the building itself is done. More than half of the investment has been made, so I think we’ve made significant progress,” Denis reveals.
“We already have a strong footprint, but we intend to grow significantly in the US, Mexico and Europe’s top five. To do that we first need to have more products and more industrial capacity. Our present limiting factor is capacity, thus the rationale for building a new production site.”
LFB is involved in three therapeutic areas – immunology, intensive care and haemostasis – and specialises in the development and production of plasma-derived medicines and recombinant protein, which are used to treat rare and serious diseases such as primary immunodeficiency, autoimmune diseases and rare coagulation disorders.
I have to confess that the crisis has actually helped us demonstrate to our employees how much we care for them.
The employee count is about 2,300, with about 1,800 of those in France, and its turnover in 2020 reached nearly €400 million. THE COVID-19 CRISIS When the pandemic struck in early 2020, LFB managed to circumvent the difficulties thrown at it in maintaining its production schedule, and kept up the supply of lifesaving treatments to patients around the world.
For the enormous efforts of its staff in ensuring that production was maintained while pandemic safety measures were initiated, Denis is very grateful. “I’ve been working in the pharma industry for more than 30 years in great companies, but I have never seen a commitment from employees like I’ve seen at LFB.
Of course, we have a performance culture, but we don’t just say we care for people, we really do care. The crisis has been an indirect opportunity for us to show that not only with words, but really a behaviour too,” he points out.
“I have to confess that the crisis has actually helped us demonstrate to our employees how much we care for them and how our values are not words but behaviours as far as transparency and caring are concerned. This crisis management has accelerated some of the transformation we were doing and has also reinforced our cultural evolution and our company values.”
To that end, Denis has rebuilt the company internally, renewed the entire executive committee and attracted new and more diverse talent. “Now I have 10 senior professionals with me – five men and five women, which is a significant difference from before, when it was a larger group of men only,” he explains.
“I have been able to attract all those talented professionals from other big pharma companies, and we’ve been able to transform the culture of the company while keeping all the expertise and talent.
“I want to stress that what we’ve been able to do in this successful turnaround – production is one, new products and serving patients are others – but the company’s strong culture is another pillar which I am really proud of.” Denis considers the past three years as the company’s “turnaround phase” and it is now entering a new phase that he likes to call the “new momentum”.
It includes improving commercial success in France and core countries, starting with the FDA approval and launch of a new product in the US called SEVENFACT®, with Europe and Mexico to follow in the upcoming months.
It also includes the completion and validation of the new plant by late 2024. His third priority is to continue the cultural transformation of LFB internally, building on the commitment of all employees to their activities.
“The third phase is strong acceleration when we have more capacity, starting in 2025, when we will be able to double our sales very rapidly, with the objective of reaching revenue of a billion euros in 2028,” he shares.
“I will continue to fuel the strong commitment of all our employees, because in a company like ours – and I think it’s relevant for all mid-size companies – quality of plant is important and quality of products is important, but what really makes a difference? It’s the people. The real value of the company is not just having talented people; it is also about having those people work together. It’s about being efficient together and certainly one of the challenges is to keep that momentum.”
The company has joined an alliance with French biotech company XENOTHERA to assist in the production of a possible treatment for COVID-19, with LFB contributing its specialised expertise in immunologic diseases and production capability.
It has manufactured clinical lots of the treatment and hopes to create commercial lots for this company that is developing a treatment against COVID-19, which is a mix of antibodies.
“We want to be a leading company in the segments where we operate, in immunological disorders, haemophilia disorders and some Intensive Care situations, and this is where we want to be a stronger partner for healthcare professionals and, of course, patients. We are lucky to do work that has a real purpose and real meaning, because we bring treatments to patients. That’s across the industry.
We are lucky to do work that has a real purpose and real meaning.
“Here at LFB, it’s one level above compared to what I have seen before. People work in this company because the diseases we address are very severe, and we give purpose to what they do and remind everyone of the importance of what we do. It is very strong in people’s minds, in their commitment and motivation.”
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