What’s behind the success of Guerbet?

Mathieu Elie, Chief Commercial Officer, Asia Pacific, Member of Guerbet's Executive Committee

Can you share with us the history of Guerbet and your vision for Asia-Pacific?

Guerbet is known as a leader in medical imaging worldwide, offering a broad range of pharmaceutical products, medical devices, digital and AI solutions for diagnostic and interventional imaging, that improve the diagnosis and treatment of patients. Our headquarters are in Villepinte near Paris, and the company was established there by André Guerbet in 1926, to expand production and distribution of the first iodinated contrast medium discovered by his father Marcel Guerbet in 1901.

At Guerbet, we build lasting relationships, to enable people to live better. This is our Purpose and it is the driving force for our actions and a source of inspiration for all our new initiatives and innovations. It is a shared energy which supports the sustainable growth of our company.

Today, we are a global company specialising in medical imaging solutions and want to be recognised as the best partner for diagnostic and interventional imaging.

Guerbet has a broad range of products, a long history of innovation and a strong reputation, especially in Europe and the US after the acquisition of the imaging business of Mallinckrodt in 2015. Our core products have been established over many decades.

Asia-Pacific now significantly contributes to Guerbet global business. Having first established a strong base in Korea in 1998 followed by Japan, we have been growing our reach in Asia-Pacific, opening offices in many countries and key markets. We opened in India last year to be in close proximity to the doctors there, which is an important part of our strategy. We have also been significantly reinforcing our presence in China.

The Asia-Pacific region is an important clinical development platform for Guerbet. We run numerous clinical trials here and have realised advantages in terms of quality and speed.

Having started small with only five people in 1998, we decided to invest in Asia-Pacific and now have over 200 employees in nine countries. We continue to invest in our people with development programs to help them grow together with the company

With such a long and rich history, what are your thoughts on innovation?

Patient safety is our first priority. At Guerbet, we care for all patients at every touch point of their journey to recovery.

We are keen to keep investing in and exploring new techniques and methods to deliver state-of-the art technology. Originally, our focus was on diagnostics, but we have expanded into interventional radiology to support increased use of minimally invasive guided procedures, and digital/AI solutions that improve operational efficiency and diagnostic confidence. Our objective is to bring value ‘now and in the future’ for our stakeholders.

Indeed, we have invested significantly in interventional radiology, based on our strong foundation product ‘Lipiodol’, and we are building a full range of interventional radiology products that are best-in-class across many product lines.

In diagnostic imaging, we strongly believe in integrated delivery solutions combining contrast medium, injectors, consumables, software and services. Advanced data analytics allows us to improve the workflow in the radiology centre by reducing the reporting and compliance burden via automation while providing meaningful insights. This common ecosystem of interconnected products allows noticeable productivity gains, we call this ecosystem “UNIK”.

In this data-driven era, we have decided to invest massively in Artificial Intelligence (AI) to accompany physicians in their clinical decisions: AI to help detect, characterise and stage lesions on imaging findings, and eventually AI to help quantify risk. We believe in proven and reliable outcomes, and we spend a lot of time and effort to clinically validate our algorithms.

Guerbet also focuses on delivering a range of best-in-class education programmes, which are shifting from physical to online models with webinars, videos and social media.

We play an important role in linking medical communities with exchange programmes between countries in Asia-Pacific and France that provide a catalyst for knowledge transfer, sharing of best clinical practices, network cultivation and relationship among the healthcare community.

A world leader in medical imaging, Guerbet is a publicly traded company on the Paris Stock Exchange, headquartered in France with offices and production facilities in Europe, the Americas and Asia-Pacific. It has a longstanding reputation as a pioneer in the research and development of contrast media for radiology. In 2015, Guerbet doubled in size with the acquisition of Mallinckrodt’s contrast media and delivery systems’ business unit. It also expanded its portfolio in the interventional imaging business with the acquisition of Accurate Medical Therapeutics in 2018.

Today, Guerbet contributes to progress made in the diagnosis of major disease areas including cancer, cardiovascular, inflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases. The company’s novel and effective imaging solutions help to improve patient management throughout the world. Guerbet offers a comprehensive range of imaging products, solutions, and services for Diagnostic Imaging – MRI, X Ray, Digital Solutions / AI – and Interventional Imaging, to enhance clinical decisionmaking, from diagnosis to treatment and follow-up, and improve patients’ quality of life.

What are the healthcare needs that Guerbet addresses?

We see many healthcare challenges. Diagnostics have become central to many medical decisions, including biopsy, pathology, in vitro and in vivo diagnostics. The right diagnostics at the right time are increasingly important in enabling clinicians to make data-driven decisions. The 2020s is the decade for data and at Guerbet we see ourselves moving from being a contrast medium provider to also becoming an informatics data provider in diagnostic imaging.

The global population will reach 10 billion by 2050 with roughly two billion people aged over 60. Half of us will be living in Asia-Pacific (APAC), giving the region a significant share of the ageing population. Given the advances in oncology treatment, there will be increased survival times for patients with chronic diseases and a greater need for imaging, which is likely to create immense pressure on healthcare.

This demand for imaging procedures is likely to skyrocket in the next decades not only because of demographics and better chronic disease survival time, but also because of the extensive use of imaging modalities in health check-ups. Adding a new MRI machine or a new CT scanner is not always possible or wanted in hospitals.

Enhancing the imaging workflow in the hospital is our answer to this challenge. We are uniquely positioned as the only player with a strong foundation in contrast, injection systems, advanced informatics and AI algorithms.

How did you overcome challenges as Chief Commercial Officer (APAC) under the COVID-19 situation?

COVID-19 has been a difficult time for everyone. We adapted really fast as a company because we knew early on that imaging diagnostics were important for COVID-19 patient management.

We knew we couldn’t fail; our first priority was ensuring our employees were safe and our factories were up and running to produce contrast, which is essential in the diagnosis of COVID-19. We also managed to source PPE kits for our employees worldwide and to produce thousands of litres of hydroalcoholic solutions in our factories that were given to the medical community.

We took extra precautions in our factories to ensure seamless operations and no factories have been closed because of COVID-19. This crisis demonstrated there is great solidarity and resilience within Guerbet, with staff actively committed to ensure continuity in production and distribution activities

Many hospitals required support for diagnostic imaging, and we continued to deliver and install injectors in hospitals including in Wuhan, China, where Guerbet APAC delivered an OptiVantage Dual Head injector to a newly built hospital at the end of January 2020. To make sure diagnostic centres could still operate during COVID-19, we quickly trained field service technicians so that they could fix and service injectors in a safe manner. We created guidelines on the disinfection of injectors, to help technicians and nurses in hospitals prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Although we had to overcome disruption in logistics, we managed to sustain supply to our consumers and are proud that we were able to help in the battle against COVID-19 by meeting government demands for immediate shipment of injectors to allow thoracic imaging.

COVID-19 made us rethink how we share our expertise with the medical community. We created Guerbet APAC TV, Medical Imaging Institute, and are considering expanding the Guerbet APAC Preceptorship Program (GAPP) training centre. Throughout this period, we contributed to educating communities on how to tackle the pandemic.

What is your view on the use of AI for the future of medical imaging?

We are expanding very fast, with a focus on new markets and geographies, creating more educational programs and investing in research to develop new products, such as our new MRI contrast medium, which is at the last
stage of its development

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming the imaging field. New data analytic methods can augment clinicians’ ability to interpret and act on large and complex data sets. As an innovator in medical imaging, Guerbet has identified AI partners with validated software technology to expand its portfolio of augmented intelligence solutions with the same aim of helping radiologists diagnose better and faster than ever before.

Today, we partner with icometrix for the exclusive distribution* of icobrain, an AI software that extracts clinically meaningful information from brain CTs or MRI scans of patients with multiple sclerosis, dementia or brain injury.

And in the US, we are starting to distribute IBM Watson Imaging Patient Synopsis**, a radiologist-trained AI tool that extracts patient information and summarises that data in a dashboard tailored to help clinicians make better decisions faster and more efficiently.

With IBM Watson Health we are developing two AI solutions to help clinicians diagnose and monitor patients with liver or prostate cancer

The liver solution is a diagnostic support tool that will use AI to automate the detection, staging, tracking, monitoring, and eventually therapy prediction and therapy response of primary and secondary liver cancer for clinicians

In the prostate program, we are developing a tool using AI with the goal of helping to detect, segment, characterise and monitor lesions over time. This AI approach may allow for faster and more informed diagnosis of prostate cancer

AI is obviously a major trend and Guerbet is determined to be at the forefront of its application. It showcases our continued contribution to building the future of medical imaging, just as we have done since our foundation some 95 years ago.

* in Brazil, Italy and France
** in the United States

--Issue 52--

Author Bio

Mathieu Elie

MATHIEU joined Guerbet in 2007 as Financial and Administrative Director of Guerbet in Korea, then took over as the Head of Business Operations in Korea, Asia-Pacific and Latin America before becoming Vice President of the APAC region in 2015. He was appointed as the Chief Commercial Officer for APAC in September 2020.

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