BeiGene Ltd, a global biotechnology company and a leading oncology R&D innovator, announced its expansion in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region with the opening of its office in Dubai.

Cristina Mazza, BeiGene’s Head of Commercial – New Markets, said:“We think we can cure cancer [and] prolong the life of patients,” and went on to explain how her team would get affordable drug therapies to patients who need them.

BeiGene began life in 2010 in Beijing. Springing from the shared vision of American former McKinsey management consultant, John V. Oyler, and renowned Chinese biochemist, Xiaodong Wang, the company adopted a new mindset toward improving treatment outcomes and access for cancer patients around the world. Coming from a Big Pharma background, with roles at GSK and Roche, Mazza joined BeiGene to carry that vision forward.

The company’s global staff of nearing 11,000 was joined in October by those in its new Dubai office. Now, Mazza will take point on BeiGene’s ambitious core mission of bringing affordable cancer medicines to patients throughout the UAE and beyond. Starting with the UAE, Saudi Arabia, GCC and Egypt BeiGene already started with the 1st cancer medicine, a BTK inhibitor that has shown significant promise in the treatment of hematological cancers caused by defective B cells. The company will then move on to North Africa and the Levant regions, targeting markets in Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq.

Mazza sees many significant challenges in the region’s biotechnology and pharmaceutical spaces, starting with lead times for bringing innovative drugs to market.

“[If] the challenge is… to compete, [we must offer] more progression free survival, [and even more] survival benefits for patients,” she said. “[Being] patient-centric means that we have a clinical development plan that looks into offering something more to patients. There are some cancers where patients do not [necessarily] die anymore, like breast cancer, but what is the next level? Is it quality of life? Is it [something] else?”

Mazza suggested that biotechnology, as an industry, must focus not only on the drugs it produces but on the services ecosystem that brings them to patients and administers their application needs – areas such as testing and psychological support.

“The pharma industry now [must] change the way we approach the reality [of] being patient-centric and customer-centric,” she said. “Of course, [drugs] take from five to 10 years to get into the clinic sometimes. And the risk of failure is very, very high. [That’s why BeiGene puts] lots of investment into R&D. We have lots of [medicines] coming out in the future, [and] we hope [they] will make a difference for patients. That is a good cause. It is our commitment.”

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