SACC-NE is excited to announce our partnership with Sobi!
Sobi is a leading integrated biopharmaceutical company dedicated to bringing innovative therapies and services to improve the lives of rare disease patients and their families. A Swedish success story, Sobi is represented in over 20 countries across Europe, with their North American headquarters in Waltham, Massachusetts having opened in June 2014.
We are especially proud to partner with Sobi for the important work they are doing to help tackle rare diseases. Below is an interview we conducted with Sobi North America’s President Rami Levin to learn more about Sobi’s direction, Rami’s experiences in Sweden, and the vision he has for Sobi in North America.
Rami Levin is the President of Sobi North America and holds an MBA from Rekanati Business School and BSc in Biology from Tel-Aviv University, Israel. Rami has over 20 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry in a variety of Marketing, Sales and General Management leadership roles in different countries.
Previous positions: Various senior positions within Merck Serono since 1998, most recently as Vice President of Marketing (US) 2012-2014. Managing Director Scandinavia (Sweden) 2008-2012. Global Marketing Head (Switzerland) 2001-2008. Business Unit Manager (Israel) 1998-2001. Product Manager, Schering AG (Israel) 1996-1998.
SACC-NE: What makes Sobi special and unique?
Rami: Sobi being a rare disease company is very focused on patients and their needs. We really want to change and improve the lives of patients with rare disease. Even with our products now and with those we’re looking at for the future. The key question we ask is, “is this an area of unmet need? Does the product bring value that was not there for patients prior?”
I personally joined Sobi because of the intriguing culture and tremendous prospects the company has. Sobi has a very startup feel to it. It has all the advantages of a startup without the risk of a startup. The culture therefore was and continues to be very unique – nothing like I’ve ever seen before. There’s this feeling that anything and everything is possible. It’s okay to think big, make mistakes, and stumble on the way to achieving success.
SACC-NE: We’re SACC-NE, so naturally, we have to ask you about your experiences in Sweden. Could you share some with us?
Rami: Working in Sweden for 4 years made me appreciate what your country has to offer, especially when it comes to science. It’s a great hub for science and innovation, and there are plenty of examples in the industry where Sweden was absolutely at the forefront. Representing a Swedish company here is great because Sobi, being a Swedish company, is bringing innovation to the forefront in the United States. Being based in New England is critical because this is the biotech hub of the world. Our headquarters are based in Stockholm, so partnering with Karolinska for our research is critical as a pharmaceutical company. Our relationships with research institutes in Stockholm make for a great partnership with Sweden moving forward.
SACC-NE: What was it like to do business in Sweden compared to other places you’ve been to?
Rami: To be honest, it took a while to get used to the regular Fika’s and paternity leaves. That took some getting used to. You don’t see that in most countries. However, what it taught me is that in Sweden, people are very productive and the outcomes are great. I learned that having a great work-life balance is absolutely critical.
SACC-NE: Why rare diseases?
Rami: Many patients with rare disease have to go through misdiagnosis after misdiagnosis. There are roughly 7,000 rare diseases out there that we know of, of which, only 400 of those have any sort of treatment available. What this means is that most rare disease have no treatment. For those that do, there’s often only one treatment available. In many cases, this one treatment can be lifesaving. When I hear these stories, it reminds me why we continue doing what we’re doing. Imagine being a parent with a child suffering from a rare disease, and the doctor can’t help you, but you know there’s something wrong. If you’re one of the lucky 400 cases, you can see a remarkable change. If not, there’s not much you can do today apart from fight and work to support clinical trials in that rare indication. Coming from the pharma side, when I see patients’ reactions – that’s second to none. Understanding what they have is a relief, and if there’s treatment available, it’s even better. It’s so gratifying to see the reactions when they receive the treatment they need.
SACC-NE: Where do you see Sobi in 5 years?
Rami: I think our vision captures where we want to be in 5 years. We want to be a profitable organization, maintain our focus on areas of unmet medical need, and we want to remain agile and focused on patient needs.
SACC-NE: How can the SACC-NE community help?
Rami: I’d love to meet small biotech companies trying to enter the US. I’m happy to share my experiences to help them. Hopefully, some of these interactions could possibly also yield some collaborations moving forward.
SACC-NE: Any advice you have for Swedish biotech companies seeking to enter the US?
Rami: This is such a complex market, so my recommendation - for sure - is to get experienced people in the US, who know and understand the US market, and will manage your business from here. They need to know what you can and can’t do here. Even if a small Swedish company has a product and wants to come to North America, get experience people in North America to work for you, who know and understand the market and can be realistic about what to expect from the US as well as how much to invest in. As for the pay off? It’s the most profitable market in the pharmaceutical industry.