Patients with rare congenital and chronic catastrophic diseases are often debilitated and impoverished by their conditions. These diseases are generally little known, even to physicians, and patients in the U.S. and EU suffer for an average of five to seven years before being accurately diagnosed. Even after diagnosis, effective treatment is frequently unavailable. The low prevalence of such diseases deters most biotech and pharmaceutical firms from investing in research and development for treatments on the assumption that they would be unlikely to recoup their investment.
Shire (Taiwan), however, stands out in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries for specializing in rare diseases, and in doing so has brought relief and hope to thousands of sufferers of afflictions that few have even heard of, including Fabry disease, Hunter syndrome, and short bowel syndrome.
Shire was founded in 1986 in the UK. Since then, Shire has grown revenues from US$648 million in 2000 to over $12 billion in 2015. The recent combination with Baxalta marks a significant step in our growth.
Shire’s Asia Pacific headquarters in Singapore is the regional hub to 10 locations across Australia/New Zealand, China, Korea, Taiwan/Hong Kong and South East Asia. Singapore is also home to Shire’s first biologics manufacturing site in Asia that officially opened on August 7, 2014. The Woodlands manufacturing facility is one of Shire’s 17 world-class manufacturing sites around the world, and the only facility outside the U.S. and Europe.
Today we have more than 22,000 employees worldwide and offices in over 60 countries. Our products are marketed in more than 100 countries, enabling us to help improve the lives of people around the world whose health is impacted by rare and other highly specialized conditions.
Shire, for example, has transformed the care of bleeding disorder sufferers, including hemophilia and van Willebrand disease, in Taiwan and around the world for over 60 years. Hemophilia A and B and van Willebrand disease are genetic disorders in which patients’ bodies fail to produce blood clotting agents, putting them at risk from bleeding to death from even minor injuries. Moreover, in the most severe cases, patients can bleed internally into joints and organs, often leaving them unable to walk or otherwise function normally. Additionally, previous generations of blood clotting medications were produced from human blood plasma, which exposed patients to blood-borne infections such as HIV and hepatitis.
Shire developed clotting agents that weren’t produced from human blood plasma, eliminating the risk of infection. Equally important, though, the company communicated extensively with patients, physicians, and hospitals to develop preventative treatments and therapies that can stave off life-threatening emergencies and improve the quality of life for bleeding-disorder sufferers.
“Previously, bleeding disorders were treated only on demand; when patients were bleeding, they received a one-time treatment and still had to cope with a missing blood clotting factor most of the time,” explains Vivian Chang, a longtime employee who is now Shire’s General Manager for Taiwan and Hong Kong. “Now, though, we not only provide the product to patients but help hospitals to establish better treatment centers and provide advanced care, such as preventative therapy and regular infusion so that patients can live normal lives.”
The impact of rare diseases can be devastating for chronic sufferers, but Chang notes that fortunately Taiwan’s national health insurance program provides reimbursement for treatment of hemophilia and other rare diseases, offering hope to these patients and their families and incentivizing new products to enter the market to alleviate their suffering.
Shire’s R&D pipeline today is the most robust in its history – broad and deeply innovative, with multiple late-stage assets. In order to address more unmet medical needs, in 2016 three major deals were concluded: First, Shire’s merger with Baxalta came with a 60-year legacy of a leading portfolio in Hemophilia as well as Immunology and Oncology. Then the acquisitions of Dyax, which brought us SHP-643 for hereditary angioedema, and of SHP-647 from Pfizer, a molecule for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease – two forms of irritable bowel disease.
Shire in Taiwan has been serving the rare-disease patient communities, including hemophilia, since 2000. Working at Shire means working for the world’s leading biotech company focused in providing innovative therapies to improve the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world.
New ideas, new innovations, new ways of thinking are fueling Shire’s future. At Shire, we ground everything we do in our purpose of enabling people with life altering conditions to lead better lives. Shire plans to bring about multiple new launches to Taiwan in the coming years.
Image Caption: Shire to Highlight Advancements in Hemophilia