Nick Haggar, CEO of Zentiva Group

Nick Haggar’s father suffered from a heart condition that required him to take medication his entire life. As a child, Nick saw how illness made simple things difficult or impossible for his father, and it inspired him to pursue a career where he could help people with similar issues.

“My dad didn’t have a normal life,” says Nick. “Sometimes he was quite limited in what he could do, so I wanted to be part of something that would be useful – useful for him and useful for people like him.

So, at the age of 21, Nick entered the health industry. Today, he is CEO of Zentiva, a Prague-based pharmaceutical company that specializes in off-patent medicines and serves around 100 million people a year in 50 countries. The company employs approximately 4,700 people, with four manufacturing sites in Prague, Bucharest and Ankleshwar, and is also physically present in 30 countries.

“My goal is to try to help as many people as possible gain access to high quality, affordable medicine, live a better life and live a full life,” says Nick. “It motivates me every day.”

My goal is to try to help as many people as possible gain access to high quality, affordable medicine, live a better life, and live a full life.

Zentiva’s role in the pharmaceutical market is to bring lower-cost drugs to a larger portion of the market after drug patents have expired. Although the company does not have its own drug discovery, it innovates to improve the patient experience, for example by developing new combinations of drugs to better manage symptoms or by proposing a new way of administering a drug.

“Companies like Zentiva are coming into the market and bringing competition with our own bioequivalent drug,” says Nick. “At that time, the price of the drug drops and the number of patients with access to this reference drug increases. Health budgets do not increase, in fact these drugs may be under budget, allowing the difference to be reinvested.

Zentiva’s high-volume generic drug offerings focus on several therapeutic areas, including cardiology – the branch of medicine so important to Nick’s father – diabetes, respiratory disease, oncology and cancer care. , over-the-counter self-care medications and urology.

Offering lower-cost generics and expanding the market for life-saving drugs is a model that Nick finds extremely motivating; the better Zentiva does as a company, the more people will benefit.

“As Zentiva grows, more patients get the drugs they need,” he says. “Each year, as Zentiva grows, we reduce drug costs across Europe. I like this. It’s a big passion for me. This motivates me and we work hard as a company to connect everyone to this goal.

“It’s also a bit of a guide because it helps you make good decisions,” he adds. “It helps you keep a balanced view. We are here to grow the business and perform financially, but we have an incredible role to play in public health and in society. We have to make sure that we achieve both of these goals.

Double sales

Shortly after Nick became CEO of Zentiva in early 2019, the company launched an ambitious plan to double the size of the business from €700 million to €1.4 billion in revenue. , in five years.

“At the end of 2021, we were a business of around €1.2 billion in sales, so we’re on track to double the business in five years,” says Nick. This growth was achieved through an insatiable desire within its team to research and deliver in underserved markets, which was made possible through the support of Zentiva’s private equity parent company, Advent International.

“Everyone in our company can put their stamp on the differences we make every day, whether it’s new drug combinations, better ways to help patients, or being able to respond when a country or a customer does not have a supply, and Zentiva is able to fill the void and ensure that there is a continuous flow of medicines,” says Nick.

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As Zentiva grows, more patients get the medicines they need.

“I love the team I’m with because we’re doing so much good, but there’s so much opportunity to do more. As a fast growing company with a private backer, we have the ability to invest in our teams, invest in our technology, invest in our manufacturing sites and invest in helping patients,” he adds.

As well as being a way to reach more patients, growth is what Nick calls “the magic ingredient” – it helps demonstrate to everyone within the company, and to all stakeholders at outside, that the formula works and that being on board with Zentiva is worth it.

“All the partners involved in this project are seeing the benefits – patients are getting benefits, payers are getting benefits, the business is growing, there are more opportunities in the business,” he says. “It’s exciting. It’s a dynamic environment and really supported by that growth mindset. It motivates me every day because every day there’s something new, something more that we can do. , and it keeps coming.

The basic framework

While his inspiration to enter the industry comes from his father, the framework Nick uses to guide him as a leader comes from his wife, Jacqui, who is, very conveniently, an executive coach.

“She imagined a model called CORE a long time ago: courage, openness, resilience and energy. It’s a framework I keep coming back to whether I’m facing a new situation or thinking about the business, but it also works extremely well when your path is uncertain,” says Nick.

The CORE framework gives Nick calm confidence in the face of challenges, he says, and helps him maintain empathy for those around him when things don’t go his way.

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We are here to grow the business and perform financially, but we have an incredible role to play in public health and in society. We need to make sure we achieve both of those goals.

“People are hurting around you in different ways,” he says. “They are uncertain. In some cases they are lost. Some of your business partners don’t know where they’re going, and that ability to empathize, to connect, and to be resilient, to really show the caring dimension, makes all the difference.

Nick always tries to keep in mind, whoever he’s talking to, that “everyone is challenged, not just purely professionally but in a rather unique way, in a profound way, both privately and personal than professional”.

His empathetic approach is not just an individual leadership strategy; it also feeds the fundamental values ​​of the company, which promotes ethics and responsibility throughout its hierarchy and with its external partners.

It has been especially valuable to have such values ​​in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, says Nick. “I think in those times it reminds you how powerful it is to have a good center, to build a healthy business that you’re proud of, because there are certain things that carry you through. One of those things in our business is our sense of responsibility, that we have to put other things aside and focus on what’s going to make the biggest difference for the most people.

Whatever decision the company makes, Nick and his team always try to look ahead 10 years to imagine how that decision will be judged in the future, he says.

“Have we, as a management team, as a company, done everything we could? he says. “Have we imagined the possibilities and really tried to do the maximum? With that kind of future standard staring at you, I think it encourages you and gives you the courage to do more and the energy to do more.

Mix drugs

The main areas in which Zentiva is currently focusing its innovation efforts are cardiology and oncology. Despite the prevalence of many cancer and heart disease drugs, society still sees many unmet needs. This does not mean that Zentiva researchers are looking for new types of drugs, but rather new ways to combine existing drugs and new ways to deliver them.

“We are looking for new, unique and innovative drug combinations to help patients better manage their symptoms, what we call value-added drugs,” says Nick. “So we’re looking at the drug from the patient’s perspective and making it more flexible for the patient – easier for the patient to take and tolerate.”

Zentiva also uses its expertise to facilitate the work of healthcare professionals, for example by facilitating the delivery of certain drugs by nurses. The company closely monitors emerging technologies and strives to incorporate them into its offerings.

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I love the team I’m with because we’re doing so much good, but there’s so much opportunity to do more.

“We are rolling out and exploring how to make existing drugs even more effective. For example, we explore nanotechnology films, fast-dissolving films, and new technology platforms that are just entering the mainstream,” says Nick.

With a goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2030, sustainability is another key priority. Zentiva’s European manufacturing sites are already running on 100% renewable energy, and in the last year alone progress has been made in reducing water consumption (its Bucharest site reduced its overall water consumption 35% last year). The company has also planted over 40,000 trees.

Nick also explains that his research and development team is also looking for ways to reduce the impact of his drugs on the environment. When a person takes medication, a large amount of it passes through their body and ends up in the water supply. Zentiva is therefore working on delivery systems that ensure that the drug stays in the patient. Sometimes this means giving a lower dose which is absorbed more efficiently by the body.

“This stream of innovation looks pretty promising,” says Nick. “It’s a complex path, of course, but we think if you look at the future standard, that’s the job that should be done.”

Finding the answer to such problems may not be the easiest task for Zentiva, but Nick did not join the industry for easy wins. He did it to make a difference.

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