Interview with Darine Ghanem, General Manager, Roche Denmark and Iceland

Interview with Darine Ghanem, General Manager, Roche Denmark and Iceland


Business Focus: What are the reasons Denmark has been able to build such a substantial pharmaceutical industry, and what kind of support are companies like Roche receiving from the government and other local entities?

Denmark stands out as a nation leading in life sciences, boasting both international and local companies with a global footprint. The life sciences sector plays an important role in Denmark’s economy, contributing more than 10% in terms of value to the economy, with the pharmaceutical industry accounting for 78% of that 10%.

On a personal note, having lived here for two years, it has been a pleasure working within a system founded on trust, healthcare accessibility, equity, and a nation that inspires innovation, pursuing bold visions in digitalization.


Can you give our readers an overview of the company’s current operations in Denmark? How do its Danish segments fit within the country’s larger global ecosystem and growth strategy?

We have been in Denmark for over 50 years and today are present with four divisions across the entire healthcare value chain: Diabetes Care, Diagnostics, Pharmaceuticals and the global Pharmaceutical Development Group (R&D). We focus on finding new medicines and diagnostics that evolve the practice of medicine and help patients live longer, better lives.

In pharmaceuticals, we research and provide medicine across major disease areas, including oncology, neurology, rare diseases, and ophthalmology. In diagnostics we are present in every Danish hospital, providing more than 700 diagnostic solutions. More than 40,000 people with diabetes use our solutions. In addition, we have chosen Denmark as one of our country sites for research and development (R&D) and run many clinical trials.


How would you assess Denmark’s R&D ecosystem in relation to the pharmaceutical sector? What innovations is Roche currently working on in the market?

From an innovation standpoint, since 2021, we have successfully launched more than 14 medicines in Denmark, serving over 10,000 patients with challenging diseases. These efforts represent our contributions to Danish society, promoting the health of its people, and our ongoing commitment to bringing innovation to patients and society as a whole.

Denmark stands out as one of the strongest countries in Europe for developing new medicines, boasting one of the highest number of clinical trials per capita. We take pride in attracting R&D investments to a country of such caliber. As Roche, we make a strong contribution through Roche initiated trials, a fact that fills us with pride.


How has Roche positioned itself as a leader in the utilization of new digital technologies? What kind of impact have these specific technologies had on its operations?

When examining the challenges and opportunities within the healthcare system in Denmark, it becomes evident that the nation excels in data and digitalization. Simultaneously, with an aging population that enjoys extended life expectancy, there lies a significant opportunity. However, it also means people endure diseases for longer periods, prompting the need to devise strategies for a sustainable healthcare system. This is where the role of data and digitalization becomes crucial.

Denmark shares common challenges with other countries, including capacity issues, workforce shortages in hospitals, and talent shortages. The key question becomes how to maximize the use of data and digital tools to address these challenges. As a company, we have collaborated with the healthcare system in three main areas: bringing care closer to patients’ homes; leveraging digitalization for enhanced accessibility of treatment; developing data-driven systems to make informed decisions, benefitting policymakers, researchers, hospitals and clinicians. This collaborative effort involves both public and private sectors and is exemplified by our initiative called OSCAR (One Stop Shop for Clinical Research).


How would you assess the level of talent within Denmark’s pharmaceuticals sector? What gaps are we seeing and how are Roche and other pharmaceutical companies working alongside universities and the government to upskill its future leaders in pharma?

Denmark boasts a high level of talent with strong quality and expertise, leadership, and proficient English skills, crucial for international companies adapting to new ways of working. As a company, we collaborate closely with universities to help shape curricula that advance talent early on. Additionally, we engage with hospitals and the healthcare sector to synergize capabilities and facilitate early upskilling.

However, capacity poses a challenge. It is imperative to explore how data and digitalization can enhance the productivity of our talented local workforce. Our initiatives focus on maximizing the efficiency of radiologists and pathologists through technology, automating tasks and freeing up time for these experts. We also aim to connect General Practitioners (GPs) with specialty care, facilitating better decision-making.

As a company participating in public-private partnerships, we are committed to not only upskilling talent but also finding solutions that enable the workforce to concentrate on critical matters, thereby advancing healthcare for our citizens.


How has US investment helped to build up the pharmaceuticals sector in Denmark, and how significant is the country to Roche in terms of an important market and partner for R&D?

Recently, we conducted a roundtable in collaboration with AmCham Denmark (where I serve on the Board), the US Ambassador, and the Minister of Business, featuring various representatives from the life science sector. We believe in the tremendous opportunity to enhance transatlantic collaboration among the US, Denmark, and Europe, aiming to maximize impact for both Denmark companies investing in the US (with over 280 billion Danish Krone in recent investments, as reported by the Minister of Business) and US companies, given that the US is the largest investor in Denmark. We ask ourselves: How can we amplify the opportunity to continue fostering collaboration that supports both the US and Danish healthcare industries?

As Roche, we have a significant presence in the US, with Roche Diagnostics, Genentech, Foundation Medicine, Spark Therapeutics and Flatiron Health. We aim to further cultivate and expedite these innovations, channel R&D investments into Denmark, and continue nurturing collaborations with a nation that serves as an inspiration for innovation. We still have much to contribute to that nation.


What are your current top priorities as General Manager for Denmark at Roche? What vision do you have for the company in Denmark in 2024 and beyond?

Coming to Denmark has been an inspiring and significant learning journey. Denmark can serve as a beacon for Europe, showcasing how data and digitalization can accelerate innovation, attract increased R&D investment, and support access to cutting-edge healthcare innovations for the benefit of patients and society.

What I especially appreciate about living in Denmark is its commitment to building trust between the public and private sectors. This is something we should not take for granted. This trusted environment is crucial to address current and future challenges faced by the system by placing responsibility on all stakeholders. It inspires us to lead in Europe, maintain Denmark as a strategic partner for the US, and continue attracting investments on both ends. These efforts contribute to accelerating innovation, ultimately fostering a healthier and more prosperous society.


Is there a lasting message you would like to share with the readers of USA Today?

If we aim to accelerate the positive impact for patients and society within the challenging environment surrounding us, we must ask ourselves: How can we collaboratively work to facilitate mutual learning and drive meaningful impact?

Denmark and the US are well-positioned to take the lead and inspire innovative, new approaches in healthcare. There is much to be gained from studying these two nations and using their experiences to inspire the future we find ourselves in at the moment.



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