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Fighting for Innovation

Pharmaceutical ExecutivePharmaceutical Executive: April 2024
Volume 45
Issue 4

Damien Bailly, president of established markets at Astellas, discusses why partnerships and collaborations are a critical organizational—and wider ecosystem—imperative in ensuring that patients have access to the medicines they need.

Damien Bailly, president of established markets, Astellas

Damien Bailly, president of established markets, Astellas

Improving patient care is clearly important to Damien Bailly.

At Astellas, the Japanese multinational Big Pharma, he serves as the president of established markets, based in Europe. According to Bailly, his focus is on both developing innovative medicines and ensuring patients are always front of mind. Throughout a recent conversation with Pharmaceutical Executive, the topic of patient access came up again and again. As he discusses the current state of the biopharmaceutical industry and his over 30-year-long career, Bailly makes it clear that this is one of his main goals. As far as Bailly sees it, there’s nothing more important in the industry than ensuring that patients can access the right treatments at the right time.

“Access is a big matter for the entire healthcare ecosystem,” he says. “We’re seeing an evolving picture where, on one hand, you have life-long treatments for conditions like Crohn’s disease. On the other hand, there are highly specialized–but potentially curative–technologies that work once. This contrast inevitably leads to the question about how society funds innovation, which is something that requires us to have the partnerships and collaborations that ensure that patients have access to new medicines today and in the future.”

Bailly starts off the conversation discussing the current state of the industry, and one of the major obstacles he sees coming. According to the executive, some of the regulations that the life sciences sector is facing will have a negative impact on areas and pursuits around therapeutic innovation. Based in France, Bailly specifically notes upcoming legislation in that region.

“For us in Europe, for instance, our regulatory department at Astellas is looking at the impact of the European Commission’s ongoing plans to reform EU pharmaceutical legislation,” he says. “It’s a bit alarming to see that the current proposal might not have a positive impact on innovations and make it even harder for us to attract investment, launch new treatments, and keep pace with other regions [such as the US and China].”

Bailly is referring to proposed changes in pharma legislation in Europe that would impact elements such as market exclusivity and regulatory data protection (see background here). In between his conversation with Pharm Exec and the publication of this profile, members of the European Parliament have since proposed changes to the legislation and policies that would lessen the impact on these areas.1

Still, Bailly’s focus is on how these changes will ultimately impact patients in Europe. He believes that it’s important for the industry as a whole to be able to engage and work with governments and regulatory agencies in ways that promote innovation and investment in research and development.

“That’s the approach we have, and we do believe that, ultimately, pharma and government systems should be working toward the same goal, which is patient health,” he says. “There’s suddenly an opportunity for us as an industry to highlight that value to society and be trusted to appreciate the patients. We can see things, too, and, therefore, want to push for collaboration and partnerships with healthcare providers (HCPs) and institutions to develop the solutions that are beneficial for patients, while also coming up with sustainable approaches for broader healthcare systems.”

Bailly referenced the development of COVID-19 vaccines as a strong example of the pharma industry and governments working together. During the pandemic, this partnership not only allowed vaccines to be developed at a faster-than-average timetable, but also helped coordinate the distribution of these highly sought-after products. Thanks to these efforts, countries in Europe were able to quickly immunize their populations and help fight back against the global pandemic.


“In general, I think that all of pharma has been slow embracing new technologies,” Bailly tells Pharm Exec. “However, we’re currently looking at using the transformative technologies in more areas, such as new drug discovery approaches, development phases, and encouraging new engagement.”

According to Bailly, Astellas is focused on this concept and he’s been a part of reshaping the business in ways to meet this goal.

“When we say that we want to turn innovation into value for patients,” explains Bailly, “we mean that our goal is to further discovery, research, and development from multiple perspectives, such as biology, modalities, and technologies. We have established a venture capital arm that is dedicated to making strategic investments in either preclinical cutting-edge solutions or other areas, ranging from broad factors such as genetic regulation to specific medical situations, like blindness in certain generations.”

The focus is, naturally, on any area that Bailly believes will bring more value to patients. He says that innovations should always be integrated in ways that keep the patients’ voices in mind. While many in the industry are working toward using new technologies to improve the impact of external factors, Bailly also believes in using these tools to motivate new internal collaborations. When things such as the end-user experience are prioritized, it helps to ensure that new innovations are developed and implemented in ways that make them the most accessible to patients.

“Everyone talks about digital, so the way we think about it is to employ digital solutions where possible, but still use human inputs where we need it,” he says. “Basically, the approach is that the new technologies are helping drive the customer- and patient-centered strategies. We think about this in three ways: from the industry level, the customer level, and the patient level. We have pursued a drug discovery platform that combines the capabilities of AI and robots with the skills and experience of people. It has the ability to develop high-quality drug candidates in a relatively short time frame.”


Bailly believes revamping approaches employed by pharma field teams today is important. At Astellas, for example, Bailly says that some of its field teams are leading a shift to customer and patient centricity by proactively identifying various areas where the company can add further value.

“We’ve been experimenting with generative AI and AI-assisted customer engagement,” notes Bailly. “They’re all powered with data feedback loops. I would add that for patients, we have been working on different apps to support health and individualize their treatment and care by using voice recognition tools, augmented reality, and AI-driven digital therapeutics. All of these tools are providing real-time feedback to help the patients, HCPs, and the care teams to manage and support patient health, especially in regard to prevention and better health overall.”

Bailly explains that these approaches are designed with the goal of bringing patients access to drugs they need earlier, faster, and more efficiently. This is the mindset he adopts and practices whenever he has to decide whether to incorporate a new technology into Astellas’ workflow.


“When it comes to the customer experience, we know that there has been a profound shift toward a holistic, personalized, and value-based model of engagement,” says Bailly. “First of all, customers want everything to be a prompt, tailored experience. They are looking for a truly value-creating relationship. The second thing is the increasingly complex healthcare environment with a growing array of stakeholders. We even have new definitions, such as digital opinion leaders, compared to the older-styled key opinion leaders. The third thing is that doctors and patients now use multiple channels to learn and engage, and, therefore, we must deliver that personal approach for each of these channels. All of this is influencing treatment access decisions.”

Bailly is describing a complex ecosystem where all parties involved are more connected and have greater ability to educate themselves before making any choices. From the perspective of a biopharma company, this presents challenges and opportunities. As Bailly points out, drug manufacturers must think about both their customers and the patients who ultimately receive the treatments, as this is not necessarily the same group.

A major area of both complication and opportunity is data. As Bailly explains, healthcare customers (i.e., HCPs, hospitals, pharmacies, payers) and patients have access to more data than ever before. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always mean that the source of that data is reliable, and, thus, the industry needs to focus on improving the ways it ensures credible data is disseminated.

“We also must shift the optics to understand the new rules of engagement from those more technologically savvy customers,” Bailly tells Pharm Exec. “There is the idea that everyone needs to have a more realistic view of available treatment options. If you think about how everyone talks about ChatGPT, that opened the door to other new means of interaction. The customers can now decide about how and when they engage. They can also access a wealth of information, but not all sources are credible or accurate, which can create additional challenges.”

New technology has changed the entire marketplace, and Bailly feels that the industry needs to adjust to keep up. This means even changing the way that organizations and partners value certain goals.

“Overall, we think that customer engagement needs to shift from volume-based sales to value-based, high-probability partnerships,” he says. “We need to offer those variable interactions, almost like acting in a consultancy capacity on a peer-to-peer level so that we can deliver tailored scientific information and education in sync with our stakeholders. That requires us and others in the pharma industry to refine our field forces and streamline mutual collaboration among all of our functions internally, in particular commercial and medical affairs.”


Bailly points out that he wasn’t necessarily destined to work in the pharmaceutical industry, as he comes from a family with many physicians and felt an overexposure at an early age to healthcare matters. As a young adult, however, he said he eventually fostered a connection with the pharma industry. While he had options to steer his career in other directions, Bailly felt like it was important to play a role in improving patients’ lives, even if it was just a modest one.

“When I started, I spent quite some time in hospitals, clinics, and care sites, and I was fortunate enough to interact with a number of stakeholders, mostly physicians,” he says. “There were also nurses, pharmacists, and hospital management. Listening to and learning from all those people in various roles gave me an appreciation of the unique challenges they were facing and the overall focus on patient care that is involved. Improving patient care is absolutely essential. We’ve been talking about access, technologies, and innovations, but patient care is at the very heart of everything. It starts and ends with the patient. Bearing this in mind, whatever we do, it’s because patients are waiting. It’s a mindset.”

One of the aspects Bailly appreciates about working at Astellas is that he’s able to participate in the organization’s yearly Patient Centricity Month. During the month of June each year, workers are able to hear about real-world experiences from patients and caregivers. This gives them a better understanding of the far-reaching physical, emotional, and social implications that come with living with health conditions.

During his early days, Bailly says he had the opportunity to meet patients who were suffering from rare diseases. He encountered parents who had to quit their jobs in order to care for a sick child or family member, or were dealing with other equally heartbreaking and difficult situations.

For Bailly, this helped bring to focus the true impact of developing new treatments; efforts to do so don’t just help provide tangible care, they also provide everyone in these situations with hope.


1. Taylor, N.P. European Parliament Committee Adopts Proposals to Revamp Pharma Legislation.Regulatory Focus. March 19, 2024. https://www.raps.org/news-and-articles/news-articles/2024/3/european-parliament-committee-adopts-proposals-to

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