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Gone global: Bial sells medicines in 60 countries and invests more than 20% of revenues in R&D


Howtoeasethe world’spains


PORTUGUESE PHARMA IS RAPIDLY ADVANCING, AND THEIR INFLUENCE EXTENDS FAR BEYOND ITS SHORES. DANIELLE MYLES REPORTS


D


espite little fanfare, Portugal’s health cluster has doubled its exports over the past decade.


Preliminary data from2020 suggests volumes have continued to grow throughout the pandemic. The uptick is driven by strong demand fromGermany, the UK and the US— and for good reason. Portuguese breakthroughs in recent years belie its lack of tradition in medical research and development (R&D), and have put the country on the global pharmaceuticalsmap. The country ishometo a growing


numberof firms delivering innovative treatments, from generics producers differentiating their products from competitors to those dedicated to pat- entedcompounds and technologies. Onefirmthat embodies the sector’s


February/March 2021 www.fDiIntelligence.com


transformation is Bluepharma, which started life 20 years ago bymanufac- turing drugs for bigger pharmacom- panies and nowhas nearly20%of its staffworking in R&D. The firm nowruns a PhD pro-


gramme which sees doctoral candi- dates doing experimental work in Bluepharma’s labs. “This has been fruitful,” says vice president Sérgio Simões. “We have been granted pat- ents on new technologies developed in-house, incorporated them into novel products and then licensed those products,” he says. One exam- ple is oral films, which deliver the same therapeutic benefits as a tab- let to patients that find it difficult to swallow. Bluepharma ismaking big strides


in oncology, bothinternally and via spin-offs it has launched in partner- ship withuniversities. Luzitin, for example, is developing a cancer treat- ment that is currently in phase 2 clin- ical trials. “The next step is a phase 3 study and then going to market,” says MrSimões. Itsmajor benefit is effi-


cacy: “It has a very localised effect on the tumour, and without someof the adverse effects that we usually see during chemotherapy,” he explains.


Fighting the pandemic In early 2021, Portugal’s Covid-19 sit- uation deteriorated, recording among the world’s highest cases and deaths per capita. Thankfully, local players are making headway with treatments. Last year, when scientists abroad made promising findings regarding the use of a drug called Ivermectin in treating the virus, Bluepharmarealised it was not clear howmuch of the drug patients would need. “With Covid-19, it is a race against time; so we decided to develop a formulation that adjusts the dose depending on the result of the ongoing clinical trials,” says Mr Simões “This will help the treatment be rolled out as quickly as possible.” Hovione is a Portuguese firmthat


is vital to the rollout of Remdesivir— the first drug approved in various countries to treat Covid-19. It is the


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