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Takeda's Dr Erich Brunn tells Pharm Exec Europe why now is the right time for the Japanese giant to get really serious about Europe.
Takeda Pharmaceutical Europe Limited (TPEU) was established in London in April 2007 to "further enhance and complement" Takeda's business structures in Europe, and to provide cohesive, pan-European leading strategies for its existing subsidiaries in France, Germany, Switzerland, the UK, Italy and Austria.
In September last year Dr Erich Brunn became TPEU's CEO. Brunn had spent the previous eight years as president of Takeda's German subsidiary, where he also oversaw activities in Austria and Switzerland. It was a period of impressive growth; when Brunn left Takeda Pharma GmbH, it was the Japanese company's strongest division in Europe. This not only reflected the strength of the market but the clarity of Brunn's leadership.
But what he achieved in one region over eight years he now plans to match across the whole of Europe in half the time, a challenge that Brunn says he welcomes. Takeda is aiming to be present in over 80% of Europe by 2010. But a recent report by Pharmawire for ft.com (9 August) suggested that this commitment to expansion has some obstacles to overcome; the company is having difficulty, the report said, in finding suitable acquisition targets and has "hit a wall" with regard to finding "reasonably-sized" companies to make a deal with.
Brunn brushes aside this negative speculation: "Until a year ago we had a presence only in six EU countries and in the rest we had licensee contracts," he says. "Already, since taking the decision to establish a broader geographic presence, we have opened up three further countries Ireland, Spain and Portugal, and are actively seeking expansion into Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, plus Turkey and Russia. So we have certainly not "hit a wall;" we are expanding and this is a big growth opportunity for us."
The move across Europe is currently advancing in countries in which Takeda has or can re-acquire product rights, as it did from Eli Lilly with Type 2 diabetes treatment Actos in Belgium, Luxembourg and Scandinavia. "But still we are open to making acquisitions, as we did recently with IDM Pharma," says Brunn. "We are open to all options. If there is an opportunity, we'll go for an acquisition; if we find a thrilling, interesting product, we'll go for that; when we can re-acquire old products, we do so."
If Brunn seems unfazed by the scope of the task at hand, it's probably down to his track record of success with a wide variety of roles and responsibilities. A chemist by training, he decided early on that he didn't want to be in the laboratory but on the market side of pharma. So he "started from scratch” as a pharma sales rep at the German division of the US company then known as Upjohn. He quickly moved up to become regional manager, then district sales manager and hospital manager, and by the time of Upjohn's first merger he was heading the HR department. He closed down the facility in Heppenheim, Germany, and moved over Erlangen to take over the newly-named Pharmacia & Upjohn's business unit. "Then, after the second merger," he says, "I got the offer from Takeda to become the managing director of Germany, Austria and Switzerland."
"I had a lot of fun developing those countries," Brunn goes on. "But after eight years, when the bosses gave me a new challenge, I was happy to take it." Brunn enjoys the more widely international flavour of his new position and, importantly, the opportunity it gives him to make his mark on the European operation. "We've only been established here in London since April 2007," he says, "so everything is still being built up. You can influence, you can build up systems and processes; you can change things."
"But my way of thinking didn't change coming from Germany," he adds. "I believe you should enjoy what you're doing. I'm a team player and I want to empower my people, but in the end I make the decisions. This was true in Germany and it is true here in TPEU. But I know there are a few brains out there in the company that know more than I do, and I need their input. If my staff has an opportunity to influence things and to be listened to, I believe they are enjoying the experience more."
Takeda seems to have taken a while to come around to optimising its European operations, but it's worth remembering that the company only created an international commercial centre of excellence in Chicago, US, this year. This development is a concerted effort by the company to be more widely recognised alongside the western Big Pharma names: Pfizer, GSK, Novartis, AstraZeneca. Because, as big and successful as Takeda is already, Brunn notes that being based in Japan presents some challenges.
"We needed to change in order to become a more global company," he says. "Bringing people over to Japan is not so easy. You have a different language, a different culture. The Japanese have a different attitude and management style. But we wanted more exchange of people; we want to be able to shuffle people over from Europe to US and vice versa."
Brunn's position in London is important in achieving that global balance. He is, geographically, well placed to manage the relations between Japan and the new International Operations HQ in the US. But the strengthening and unifying of the European operation remains his key concern. "Before the establishment of the European HQ, the country managing directors were completely autonomous, as long of course as they delivered the results," he says. "This continues today, but I think now we should have some common visions, some common strategies, some common positioning, to really set up global strategies for the new products."
Achieving this all across Europe in 3-5 years means will be no mean feat. Brunn certainly has his work cut out. But it looks like he has the determination to achieve it.