Conversation with Giuliana Villa, Head of Medical Affairs at IBSA Group11 February 2022
The Medical Affairs department acts as a trait-d’union between Research and Development (R&D) and the marketing-commercial division. It’s a support function, which has both a scientific and a commercial soul. In fact, the Medical Affairs team must have a detailed knowledge of the company products, while carrying out the complex – and often not easy – task of transferring this know-how to IBSA’s subsidiaries and distributors. In a nutshell, from science to business: Giuliana Villa, Head of Medical Affairs at IBSA Group, tells us more about this important Function.
HOW DID YOUR PROFESSIONAL CAREER UNFOLD, PARTICULARLY AT IBSA?
After graduating in biology, I started my career in the pharmaceutical field. Initially I worked in Research & Development, and then I landed in the commercial area, dealing with supporting licensing managers for the scientific part. Therefore, I got to see both sides of the coin.
Thanks to this solid background, when I joined IBSA in 2007 I proposed the creation of a Medical Affairs department, more than convinced that this would bring great added value to the company.
And it did, so I thank Dr. Licenziati for trusting me. At the beginning it was not easy, but perseverance, dedication, ethics and professionalism helped me create IBSA’s Medical Affairs Global division, a department that is increasingly assuming a role of reference, both inside and outside the Group.
WHAT ARE YOUR DEPARTMENT’S ACTIVITIES, EXACTLY?
Medical Affairs is primarily concerned with strategically managing and communicating the scientific contents of the products pertaining to the therapeutic areas of our competence: osteo-articular, uro-gynecology, pain and inflammation, dermatology, cardio-metabolic, respiratory and consumer health. More concretely, this translates into the management of IBSA’s participation in international congresses, the organisation of stand-alone meetings (i.e. entirely managed by IBSA), the creation of webinars, scientific publications, brochures and educational programmes, as well as the sharing of guidelines aimed at allowing our subsidiaries and distributors in turn to generate innovative materials to be offered to their doctors in their local language. In all this, we always have a focus on transmitting the values that are the pillars of all our corporate activities, such as research and innovation (in which IBSA constantly invests) and the desire to control production from the first stages to the finished product, a guarantee of efficacy and safety for both the doctor and the patient. In this sense, Medical Affairs plays an essential role in conveying the credibility of the company to the outside world.
HOW IMPORTANT IS THE INTERNATIONAL DIMENSION?
Very much; one could say that everything we do always has a global and transversal dimension. Medical Affairs is the reference point for subsidiaries and distributors for every aspect concerning corporate products.
We generate new contacts with key opinion leaders in the industry, both for corporate activities and at the subsidiary and distributor level, and we promote post-marketing initiatives, for example by encouraging the involvement of local doctors to activate studies with local and/or international significance.
We also offer support to business development, when it is necessary to present or investigate new business opportunities.
IN SHORT, A VERY VARIED JOB: WHAT IS A “TYPICAL DAY” IN YOUR DEPARTMENT?
It would be difficult to describe a typical day: no days are the same, and this is what I appreciate most. The variety and dynamism with which we face our daily activities enhance and strengthen the organisational skills we use to deal with all unforeseen events, such as unplanned meetings or calls, which have now become an established modus operandi, which allows us to remain in contact with the world, since our partners’ location ranges from the USA to the Far East!
And all this is possible when the team is involved and engaged: thanks to them, collecting satisfaction and consensus becomes easier. In fact, I am deeply convinced that the excellence of the individual is not much compared to the potential that people express when they work together.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN PROJECTS YOU HAVE BEEN PROTAGONISTS OF IN THE LAST PERIOD?
As I mentioned, Medical Affairs is also involved in medical training, and offers sector specialists the opportunity to benefit from excellent training programs. Precisely within this context is IBSA International Academy-MSK Modules, one of the flagships of our company: it’s a training program in the osteo-articular field, a clear example of IBSA’s attention to the Person. The goal is in fact to improve the skills of our doctors, while enhancing the central role of the patient, who will be able to rely on increasingly experienced and trained professionals. Indeed, we believe that networking between the different players in the sector (doctors, companies, patients) is critical. Another very important event also falls within this context: the JOINT CHALLENGE, an IBSA Congress that was held last October. It has been a real challenge, both with ourselves (we managed to involve stakeholders from 22 countries!) and – above all – with acute and chronic joint/musculoskeletal conditions. A two-day stand-alone international meeting with doctors from all over the world, and from various specialised areas: orthopaedists, rheumatologists, sports doctors, physiatrists. It was a great success, and we are very proud of it.