The Human Side of Patient-Centricity

Focus on patient need and business success should follow, says Paul Perreault, CEO of leading biotechnology firm CSL Limited, parent company of CSL Behring

When blood-plasma donors arrive at CSL’s centers across America they are greeted by photos and profiles of some of the patients who have received the biological treatments that result. For CSL Behring, patient focus starts at the very beginning of the manufacturing process.

“The patients we feature at our plasma centers are members of their local communities,” says Paul Perreault, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of CSL since 2013. “These patients also come in to the center and talk to the donors, thanking them, because they understand that this precious raw material keeps them alive and healthy.”

Linking donors with patients is just one step in the company’s journey to place the customer at the center of its business, which spans 60+ countries and nearly 20,000 employees.

Described by Perreault as a “true biotech company with the benefit of a strong base business in plasma-protein biotherapies,” CSL has come a long way since its birth in 1916 as a government-owned enterprise to provide Australians with medicines in short supply during World War I. 

“Key acquisitions, innovation, product differentiation and then geographic expansion have been key to our success,” says Perreault, who believes a global approach to operations should pay as much attention to smaller markets as it does to the US and Europe.

“We help rare, chronic disease patients with life-saving medicines, and when we enter a country we want to make sure that it’s sustainable, because these patients will suffer if they don’t get access to these medicines,” he says.

“Our number one value is patient focus. If a therapy is not going to make a difference to the lives of patients, then we shouldn’t be making it. If you look at governments around the world, they are only paying for innovation; that drives us because it is the gaps in patient care that will win the day for us, not only for patients but in terms of access and reimbursement. It’s all connected.”

Patient focus naturally brings business success, says Perreault. “Focus on the patient and everything else follows, including the share price and the financials. Do the right things and people will believe in your strategy, then the scoreboard will show the result.”

Patients are also regularly invited to meet CSL employees at all levels, which can result in innovative collaborations. For example, a group of employees recently undertook a four-day mountain climb alongside a patient with alpha-1 lung disease who has difficulty breathing. For Perreault, this was an “emotional event” that helped employees to connect with the company’s everyday work in a visceral, human way.

He points to CSL’s recent acquisition of an 80 percent stake in Chinese plasma firm Ruide, giving them access to the world’s fastest growing plasma therapeutics market. “Often, what you see are companies that do acquisitions of things that are not really in the same space. So, two years later, they divest because they say the business is no longer core, which for me is code for, ‘We couldn’t make it work’.”

Perreault takes a hands-on approach to his global company, spending 200 days a year on the road including touring the offices to meet new recruits, riding along on sales calls with reps and participating in charity days.

“Management has to be visible. You’ve got to show up,” he says. “I do a lot of management by walking around – I don’t know everything and just sitting in my office and thinking would be a mistake, in my view. Looking for better ways to do things, and engaging employees at all levels, is a constant endeavor.”

Looking ahead, Perreault cites a research project trialing a treatment using a novel apolipoprotein A-I (apoA-I) infusion therapy to prevent a second heart attack in the acute phase after a first attack. “This is a big bet for us– it’s a protein we developed over the last 15 years and comes from plasma, but we’ve modified it so it attracts unstable plaque out of the vessels,” he says. “If we decide to move forward, that would be a huge clinical trial for us but, if it’s successful, it can transform the company and the economics of the business.”

Paul Perreault will be speaking in March at eyeforpharma Barcelona 2018 where you can join pharma’s revolution as the real patient solution provider. 

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