Mumbai-based generic drugs producer Cipla has recruited Frank Pieters a former senior vice-president at global generics leader Teva of Israel to head its European business, said two persons familiar with the development. India’s third-largest drug maker by sales has also put Pieters in charge of its global respiratory portfolio which has a pipeline of high-potential generics such as of GlaxoSmithKline or GSK’s $8.5bn Seretide/Advair inhalers. Significantly, Pieters put in 15 years at GSK Europe prior to joining Teva.
This move is in keeping with Cipla’s bid to strengthen professional management at various parts of the company as it positions itself to capitalise on billions of dollars worth of patent expiries in key western markets. In recent years, some industry watchers have faulted Cipla for under-exploiting the potential of its generics research and manufacturing investments.
Pieters has roughly three decades of experience in the European drug industry much of it leading respiratory businesses at GSK and Teva. “Pieters brings with him a thorough knowledge of business in Europe and his contacts,” said one of the two persons. “Also, very few people have his kind of experience in the respiratory franchise and they are to be found either at GSK or Teva.”
At Teva, Pieters was vice-president and senior vice-president in the global respiratory unit between 2006 and 2011. Teva had inherited this business in 2005 from Ivax Corporation which it acquired that year. At the time, the unit had revenues of a few hundred million. It is now a $6bn franchise.
Pieters has also played an important role in some of the Israeli group’s biosimilars businesses and was Chief Integration Officer in Europe for the branded products of Teva and US-based Cephalon, maker of sleep disorder drug Provigil, that the Israeli company acquired in 2011.
Prior to Teva, Pieters worked as business unit director of the respiratory division at UK’s GlaxoSmithKline and as the managing director of its Belgian and Luxembourg operations.
Investors have long regarded Cipla’s generic respiratory drugs/inhalers portfolio as the jewel in its crown. However, in recent months there have been many questions and concerns about its readiness to monetise this portfolio in key western markets given stringent regulatory requirements and the dearth of strong marketing partners. Competition is expected from some of the world’s largest generics companies.
Cipla has traditionally sold its generics in markets outside India through partners rather than build a front-end marketing organisation of its own. Investors have expected it to partner with a player of heft who can take on larger rivals. For instance, in Russia (which is counted as an emerging market) Cipla has a partnership with Teva to market a generic of Seretide.
By recruiting Pieters, the company is “gearing up to capture the huge commercial upside of years of back-end investment in respiratory medicine,” said this person. “Currently the company has a spate of small partnerships but nothing really on the big combination products (such as Seretide),” said this person. “That should change with Pieters on board.”
A recent article in the Business Standard pegged the global respiratory market at $34 bn citing 2010 estimates. The US and Europe accounted for 80 per cent of this, it said. Cipla currently makes $60 to 70mn from its respiratory portfolio outside India. The company wants to grow “its presence and portfolio significantly in Europe and other markets,” this person said.
Pieters joins Cipla this week and will be based in Belgium.
In the last 15 months, other senior professionals that Cipla has hired into its exports team include Chandru Chawla, who was Mumbai-based Lupin’s senior vice-president for international operations and Sanjay Bhanushali, a former senior director at Hyderabad’s Dr Reddy’s.