Innovation and Diversity: Two healthy habits for Latin America

Innovation
FIFARMA

Innovation and Diversity: Two healthy habits for Latin America

GABRIELA PITTIS
President of SAM (Southern Cone, Andean Region, Mexico & CAC) at Takeda 

Since I was very young, innovation has been one of my great obsessions. I have often wondered why this fascination for discovering new things and it goes beyond a professional challenge. Innovation has the power to transform people's lives; to make them healthier and happier. 

Is there a secret to innovation? It would be very ambitious to propose an infallible recipe, because innovation involves many variables: talents, resources, tolerance to uncertainty, teamwork, curiosity, perseverance, and creativity, among others. However, from my professional experience, first as a biology student, then as a researcher in various academic and scientific scenarios and currently as an executive at Takeda, I dare state that the most important variable to generate innovation in an organization is diversity. 

Among many lessons, the pandemic left us with two very big ones related to diversity. The first was collaborative work between organizations with very different interests and approaches to health. Demonstrating that it is possible to work as a team, efficiently and quickly, when we put our minds to it and leverage our diversity. The second great lesson was learning that we could change beliefs, which we had previously assumed as absolute truths, without paying very serious consequences. Remote work and virtual meetings have forever changed the way the planet works. In other words, they helped us, individuals, and organizations, to become less rigid. And that flexibility is also a gateway to diversity. 

Every day the pharmaceutical R&D industry is becoming less rigid and strives to have diverse teams, with different visions and life experiences. And what we have found on this road we have traveled is that innovation comes with diversity, not rigidity. At Takeda, we work toward innovations that transform the lives of millions of people. An example of this is the dengue vaccine which, to date, has already received approval for use in the European Union, Indonesia, Thailand, Brazil, and Argentina. According to PAHO figures, this disease causes 2.8 million infections in Latin America. The vaccine will undoubtedly improve the quality of life of many people, especially children, in the most affected regions. 

It is important to clarify at this point that in Latin America the challenge is not only one of innovation, but also of access. We would achieve little if we were dedicated to scientific innovation, but those drugs and treatments would not reach patients to transform their lives if health systems did not guarantee rapid and equitable access. It would be like planting beautiful flowers in a barren, dry and nutrient-depleted soil. 

And this is where FIFARMA, the Latin American Federation of the Pharmaceutical Industry, of which I had the honor of being the president of its Board of Directors until June 2, 2009, comes in. FIFARMA's work is essential to guarantee both innovation and access to patients. It is vital for the health of the people and countries of the region to continue consolidating the federation as a strong interlocutor that nurtures and contributes to the public debate and promotes concrete actions that facilitate access to innovation for more patients. 

We all want to move towards more sustainable health systems. And as I mentioned earlier, innovation is achieved with diversity, not rigidity. My invitation is to seek this diversity in all our actions, whether from each pharmaceutical company or collectively, from Fifarma. Diversity is what allows us to develop collaborative work with the private sector, the public sector, and academia. Diversity also allows us to engage in dialogue with national governments to reach agreements that benefit all patients. Diversity so that 640 million Latin Americans, with amazing talent and resilience, can access more medicines and innovative treatments. 

I close with a very inspiring phrase that sums up the purpose of Takeda, the company I chair for a large part of our region. A phrase I remember every day as I face the challenges of this exciting pharmaceutical world: Better Health for People, Brighter Future for the World.

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