Thierry Hulot: "Technological innovation is improving standards of care"
The Managing Director of Merck France discusses the importance of medical innovation in light of the pandemic.
Leaders League: You became president of Merck France in 2017. Which projects have you started and which have you been able to conclude in your first four years?
Thierry Hulot: My first objective was to reorganize the various entities of Merck France by building a common model of governance between our 11 sites in the country, putting to good use the collective know-how and best practices of the group. This was an essential step as it allowed Merck to maintain its leading position in the medical innovation sphere and put us in position to remain efficient during the pandemic.
The second priority was to increase Merck’s social engagement. It is my belief that companies in the science and technology sector have a big role to play in making the world a better place, both within their own company and in society. We have worked to update and improve our ESG policy, to promote greater equality, diversity and inclusion. Merck was one of the first companies to publish a gender- parity index for all our branches, even those which did not require it since they housed less than 1,000 people.
I am also passionate about supporting staff suffering from chronic illness, so they are in a position to return to work after treatment and help ensure that their affliction is not an impediment to their career.
In Germany, when a new medicine is discovered, it is cleared for commercial use within weeks. In France you have to wait almost a year and a half for approval
What would you say will be the main technological challenges facing the healthcare sector in the coming years?
Digital innovation has become a fact of life in the sector. The benefits of big data in identifying illness and treating it at an earlier stage will allow us to provide care that is more effective and tailored to the individual. This is an area where France is playing catch-up.
We often hear that the French healthcare system is the envy of the world, but the Covid crisis has revealed its weaknesses. In order to take things forward, there needs to be better and more frequent cooperation between stakeholders in the political and administrative spheres.
In Germany, when a new medicine is discovered, it is cleared for commercial use within weeks. In France you have to wait almost a year and a half for approval. The patient is losing out and it is vital that we find a way to reduce this timeframe and give the industrial pharmaceuticals industry here the means to streamline their operations.
Merck is engaged in the fight against many diseases, such as cancer and diabetes. What role does technological innovation play in this regard?
Little by little, innovation is improving patients’ quality of life and standards of care. Take the example of a young person who lacks growth hormones but no longer wants their parents to administer their regular injections. We are now able to offer them the chance to do it themselves via an auto-injection system specially developed by Merck. Technology allows a healthcare professional to monitor the patient, remotely and in real time, gathering all the data needed to ensure the injections have the right dose and frequency.
Technological innovation makes getting and giving treatment easier, assuages the dread that can be involved with getting injections and provides more detailed information on the evolution of the patient’s condition, all while providing them with greater freedom and flexibility.
Connected devices have a range of other applications. Take fertility treatment, such as artificial insemination, for example. Merck has developed a device that allows women carry out fertility treatment from the comfort of their own homes, while ensuring the fast and secure transfer of medical data. This is a big step forward and can make a significant difference to women in assisted procreation programmes.
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