Novartis:  At the Forefront of Innovative Medicine

Novartis Taiwan signed an MoU with Taichung Veterans General Hospital on long-term partnership to create a Center of Excellence to advance the standard of care for diabetes, heart failure, organ transplants, and ophthalmology. Photo: Novartis

The Novartis motto – “Reimagining Medicine” – goes to the heart of the company’s deep commitment to developing innovative drugs to help fill the unmet needs of patients worldwide. The Swiss-based pharmaceutical multinational consistently ranks among the top companies investing in R&D, ensuring a constant pipeline of new and groundbreaking treatments.

In 2017 the investment in R&D came to US$9 billion, accounting for 18.3% of total revenue. Also in 2017, Novartis spent nearly US$15 billion on acquisitions to expand its presence in the cutting-edge fields of gene therapy and radiopharmaceuticals, adding to its existing strengths in such areas as cardiovascular medicine, immunology, respiratory, neurology, oncology, and ophthalmology.

“At Novartis, we’re dedicated to developing innovative medicines to address unmet medical needs and making them available to patients and caregivers to transform patients’ lives.  We work hand-in-hand with physicians and key stakeholders to advance the standard of care,” says Vicky Tse, General Manager & Country President of Novartis (Taiwan). She cites several dramatic examples of how Novartis products launched in recent years that led marked improvements in patients’ conditions around the world, including Taiwan:

  • Heart failure. Besides facing the risk of hospitalization and death, heart-failure patients had to severely curtail their daily activities and often had trouble sleeping without propping themselves up with several pillows. A Novartis drug introduced two years ago now enables them to improve their quality of life and resume the activities they loved to do before getting ill.
  • Psoriasis. The unsightly red patches and white scales on the skin caused patients to cover up and stay away from the beach or swimming pool. “A new Novartis drug improves their symptoms and restores their confidence,” says Vicky.
  • Ophthalmology. A Novartis breakthrough has helped over 30,000 patients in Taiwan with neovascular Age-related Macular Degeneration (nAMD) to avoid loss of sight.

Novartis has also been a leader in the cutting-edge fields of gene therapy and CAR-T therapy.

Novartis Taiwan employees donated to the Institute for the Blind and Andao Foundation to help improve their facilities in 2018. Photo: Novartis

“Besides giving back to society through innovation, Novartis also does so through our Corporate Social Responsibility programs,” says Vicky. “A commitment to CSR is deeply ingrained in the company and is central to how we run our business.” For the past four years, Novartis has been a recipient of CommonWealth magazine’s CSR Award, and in 2018 was recognized as the number one pharmaceutical company in Taiwan for CSR activity. Among the ways in which Novartis Taiwan actively supports the local communities where we live and work are:

  • Employee Charity Fundraising: Through this program, established in 2009, Novartis Taiwan employees have donated more than NT$30 million to 18 local charities. “We particularly identify and support groups that do good work but tend to get less attention,” says Vicky
  • Community Partnership Day: The more than 700 associates together volunteer over 1600 hours each year to support and serve local communities

We feel the energy in teams as Novartis are unleashing the power of employees in three ways. “The first is to stimulate curiosity by encouraging people to ask questions and constantly look for better ways to do things,” says Vicky.

Novartis received the Top Employer in Taiwan award in 2019 for the second consecutive year. Carlo Perone, Head of HR for Novartis’ APMA Region, celebrated together with associates in Taiwan. Photo: Novartis

The second is to inspire our associates with personal and company purpose. That sense of purpose is often fostered when physicians, patients or care-givers shared their treatment outcome. The third is to to “un-boss,” providing a platform to let employees perform at their best and to help support their growth by removing barriers.

“I love this approach because it energizes the employees,” says Vicky. “People become more engaged and willing to speak up as they see themselves as part of the company and grow with the company.”

Photo: Novartis

With its more than 30-year history in Taiwan, Novartis is deeply rooted in this market and views it as having high potential for development. “Taiwan has lots of talents – people who are very experienced and have the passion to perform,” says Vicky, a native of Hong Kong. “Developing and growing people are always in my heart.”

Novartis has begun a program to cultivate more diversity through rotation. Employees are not only rotated through different positions, but may also have the opportunity to work in the Basel headquarters or other markets for a few months, while Novartis colleagues from other markets are similarly given the chance to come to Taiwan. “It helps to spark different ideas,” says Vicky.

That concern with career development has enabled Novartis Taiwan to be named as a Top Employer in Taiwan for the past two years by a regional association.

Aside from the quality of personnel, Vicky also cites other factors that contribute to a favorable overall environment. “Because Novartis is bringing in innovative medicine, we need to be sure there is a high level of care,” she says. “Taiwan has highly professional doctors and a high-quality healthcare system through the National Health Insurance program. The government wants to get the most advanced medicines for the people of Taiwan, and it has also put a very good patent law into place, which is important for innovative medicine.”

“What’s more, the government has accorded top priority for biomedicine. It’s investing for the future, so the outlook is quite positive.”