Tuesday, 23 April, 2024

07 Jul 2023 | Australasian Dental Practice

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Geistlich Pharma continues global expansion under new CEO

By Joseph Allbeury

Since last visiting the headquarters of Geistlich Pharma AG in Wolhusen, Switzerland in 2019, a new CEO has taken the helm of the company. In January 2021, Dr Ralf Halbach took up the role following the retirement of Paul Note. Dr Halbach has had a long career as a global Senior Pharma/Diagnostic Executive with international management experience in the pharmaceutical and diagnostic sector spanning over 25 years. For the decade prior to joining Geistlich, he worked for Roche, holding positions in Global Strategic Marketing (USA) supporting Roche's largest Oncology brand and functioning in regional commercial roles in North-West Africa, South-East Asia and Central Europe. Dr Halbach was born and grew up in Barcelona and has a PhD in Organic Chemistry from the University of Basel (Switzerland) and an MBA from INSEAD (France).


Thank you once again for the honour of visiting your amazing facility.

Thank you for coming.

Could you please tell me what was your mandate as the incoming CEO of Geistlich?

After 16 years of very successful leadership by Paul Note, my predecessor, who had really moved the company from being a very small, Swiss-based business into an international operation with a dozen affiliates and sales across the globe, the mandate was really building on the success of the past, diversifying our portfolio and growing in other regions, particularly the US.

As someone new to the company, what areas did you immediately see would play well into that?

The very strong Geistlich brand was really the ideal foundation. Geistlich as a company and its products, like Geistlich Bio-Oss® and Geistlich Bio-Gide®, are already very well-known. You could say they are household names for all dentists, periodontists and oral and maxillofacial surgeons across the globe - whether it be in Argentina, Australia or China, people everywhere know Geistlich. They might pronounce it differently, but they know Geistlich, and they are familiar with Geistlich's main product portfolio.

So, this is a very strong foundation to begin with, and as part of our growth and diversification strategy, we have been able to acquire or license and distribute products from other companies who were seeking to operate within our sales channel. This advantageous position has made it relatively easy for us to engage in discussions with these companies, as they are ready and eager to collaborate. Of course when we deal with partner products, we select those that really fit into our brand.

An example of such a company is Meta, the manufacturer of the Micross and Safescraper bone scrapers in Italy. Meta, like Geistlich, was also a family-owned business. Since Geistlich had already been distributing their products, we had an existing relationship. They approached us with the proposition of being acquired, expressing their desire to become part of the Geistlich family. The Meta proposal came at the right time, when Geistlich began to search for external companies for partnering or acquisition.

This progress has been favourable on two fronts. Firstly, our acquisition and partnering efforts have been successful, allowing us to expand our portfolio. Additionally, we have been making notable advancements in terms of geographical expansion. We have acquired a company in the United States, Lynch Biologics, with which we could add another cutting-edge technology to our dental portfolio. This product, GEM 21S®, is based on a growth factor that accelerates bone formation and wound healing. And we have also made significant progress in Brazil, a substantial market. Generally, our expansion is propelled by our robust brand name and stellar reputation, both of which are built upon our commitment to quality science. These factors serve as the bedrock for further growth.

What do you see as your biggest accomplishment in the last two years?

To a certain extent, I acknowledge that I am leveraging past successes while simultaneously working on strengthening our brand. We have great employees all over the world, who carry a unique knowledge of regeneration and a reference to our core values. In practical terms, the most significant achievement since assuming the role of CEO has been successfully acquiring two companies and seamlessly integrating them into our team. As a result, both companies are flourishing within the Geistlich family. I believe this accomplishment, coupled with a culture shift that makes our teams even more successful, represents my most notable contribution.

When you talk about the strength of the brand, how does that differentiate Geistlich from other companies?

That's a very good question. I think, principally, our brand translates to trust. When you use a product from Geistlich, you can be sure that quality and consistency are paramount. Our published scientific data relates to the exact same product you are using so that the clinical outcomes will be the same with each and every patient. We have developed a manufacturing process that is very consistent and reproducible to ensure that the product is the same every time. The Geistlich name stands for quality, and it stands for trust, and our customers understand that this is our guarantee.

On top of that, our scientific approach is the foundation of our relationship with our customers. We continually undertake clinical trials that underpin the validity of our products for different indications, in different settings and different patients with the key opinion leaders globally. This is key from my perspective. So, it's the trust in our quality and the scientific backing of our products.

And finally - and perhaps even more importantly - it's the focus we have on education.

When we started 30 years ago, bone regeneration and tissue regeneration was basically a fantasy. We made sure that, on the one hand, we learned how our products worked in unison with the opinion leaders across the globe, and on the other, we also taught people how to use our products - where to use them and where not to use them - which is also critical.

Together, the trust in our products backed by science and education makes Geistlich really special.

Then last but not least, I'd say our people. I think our people, and this is something that struck me when I joined Geistlich, our people are really passionate about patient care, passionate about values and passionate about working for Geistlich. The biggest surprise when I joined was that I met a person here who recently retired and had been with the company for 53 years! So, I think this also comes across to our dentists and to our customers who are using our products as they see how our people do really believe in our science and that the Geistlich family itself stands behind our products.

Certainly, if you're in Australia, it's difficult to know of anything other than Geistlich. The only company consistently educating Australian clinicians in regeneration is Geistlich. The courses are continual, comprehensive and catering to all levels.

It is great to hear that.

The reputation of Geistlich in Australia is legendary and not just because I'm here with you. It really is such a well-run, well-executed business.

I think that we really pride ourselves on being a premium company. We offer the highest quality products, and we offer the highest quality education.

The team in Australia have this passion for the brand, and it's another example of our people making a difference!

It's a real testament to the stability of the company.

It comes across in the value of family. The Geistlich family prides itself on offering good jobs and, in addition, jobs that have, let's say, social components. People see the atmosphere, the passion for science and how much clinicians trust in our solutions for medical regeneration.

So what do the next 5 to 10 years hold?

We've established our strategic plan, referred to as "Fit for Future", which is about strengthening our flagship products and also continuing to diversify our portfolio and our geographies.

We continue our mission to regenerate. While our products are well-known and widely used across Europe and also in places like Australia and New Zealand, there are other countries where we can still do some development work with our scientific knowledge. For example, in China, Japan, Brazil and even in the US we still have a way to go.

As we expand, we want to continue to bring other high-quality companies and products into our family that complement our existing range. Of course, we continue developing upon our own in-house technologies. We have our own internal R&D team here in Wolhusen, and we also work with external groups to build on the successes of the past.

Furthermore, we observe that there is an emergence of lower-priced products from South Asian companies that claim to possess similar quality to Geistlich without providing any scientific background. These products are offered at a significantly discounted price, posing a challenge that requires our attention.

I firmly believe that by harnessing the power of our talented workforce, our exceptional products, and our robust brand, we will persistently advance the field of regeneration, which remains our ultimate objective. Our mission is to revolutionise the way people approach regeneration. While we have made significant progress, it is evident that there is still a considerable distance to traverse on this transformative journey.

Thank you very much for your time.

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