In an industry as focused on people as healthcare, companies must not only dedicate themselves to the consistent discovery of new and innovative medicines and treatments, they need also demonstrate a solid commitment to improving the quality of patients’ lives. For Eli Lilly and Company, a pharmaceutical multinational with a 145-year history, such a commitment is an integral part of its mission to create medicines that make life better for people around the world. Having operated in Taiwan since 1966, Lilly has a deep understanding of the local market, as well as the unmet clinical needs of Taiwanese patients.
“It is because we recognize these unmet needs that we have the opportunity to step in and make a sustained contribution,” says Hidehito Katsuma, general manager of Lilly Taiwan. “Our focus on producing life-changing medications forms the basis of our approach to supporting all patients in Taiwan.”
One of the major areas of development for Lilly is oncology, as the company works to change the practice of cancer care through treating rare tumor types, leveraging its strengths in precision medicine, and finding new ways to improve existing treatments.
Lilly has also expanded its cancer treatment capacity by acquiring biopharmaceutical firm Loxo Oncology in 2019, and in late July announced an exclusive collaboration with Kumquat Biosciences. This new project is focused on the discovery, development, and commercialization of potential novel small molecules that stimulate tumor-specific immune responses.
“This is a good example of Lilly’s efforts to broaden the treatment options for patients,” says Katsuma, who previously served as the senior director of Eli Lilly Japan’s Oncology Business Unit. “We are committed to efficiently producing first-in-class and best-in-class medications in this area.”
Beyond cancer care, Lilly has been a pioneer in the treatment of diabetes since it introduced the world’s first commercial insulin product in 1923. And this year, on the 100th anniversary of the discovery of insulin, the company continues to build upon its legacy by working to meet the diverse needs of people with diabetes and those who care for them.
“Just recently, we announced the acquisition of Protomer Technologies, whose proprietary peptide- and protein-engineering platform is used to identify and synthesize molecules that can sense glucose or other endogenous modulators of protein activity,” notes Katsuma. “Lilly aims to become a leader in diabetes with a full portfolio offering treatments for Type 1 and Type 2 patients in various forms of medication, including oral and injection therapy.”
The company’s commitment also extends to the treatment of Alzheimer’s, a disease that impacts millions of people around the world. As Taiwan transitions to a super-aged society, with more than 20% of its population expected to be aged 65 or older by 2025, Lilly’s robust neurodegeneration pipeline becomes ever more important to the hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese families affected by Alzheimer’s and related diseases.
“The company’s current neurodegeneration program is focused predominantly on developing disease-modifying therapies that slow or halt the progression of Alzheimer’s disease,” says Katsuma. “We see an urgency regarding this unmet medical need in Taiwan and recognize our responsibility to continue researching and developing solutions to support the Alzheimer’s disease scientific community.”
Katsuma also highlights Lilly’s experience with conducting clinical research in over 55 markets, including Taiwan. Among the company’s global clinical trial operations, Taiwan has proven to be one of the best places for recruiting suitable patients efficiently. It is no wonder then that Lilly has expended significant resources on its Taiwan-based R&D, this year investing approximately NT$400 million in more than 40 clinical trials, with an emphasis on oncology, diabetes, and other areas.
Comparing Taiwan to his home country of Japan, Katsuma sees a lot of similarities between the two, particularly the high quality of healthcare coverage that is provided to citizens. However, he notes that in Japan, all new drugs are reimbursed as soon as they are licensed by the Japanese health authorities.
“This system provides Japanese patients with greater access to innovative treatments and thus better healthcare,” he says. “Yet in Taiwan, I see more limited resources for reimbursement. I hope that I can bring the Japanese experience to Taiwan to help enhance patient access in this market.”
Katsuma, an avid athlete and sports enthusiast, hopes to apply the strength and determination he has cultivated through participation in team sports and multiple marathons to his work ensuring that patients have good access to Lilly’s innovative medicines in Taiwan.