PM360 Q & A with Bruno Cohen, Chairman of the Galien Foundation

The Galien Foundation’s impact on the international medical innovation community is unmistakable. Founded in France 45 years ago by pharmacist Roland Mehl, the Prix Galien supports, recognizes and awards the efforts of scientists, researchers and companies committed to advancing medical innovation with the power to change the human condition. Bruno Cohen, the current Galien Foundation Chairman, brought the Prix Galien USA Awards to NYC in 2007, first honoring unique medical products, later devices and finally, individuals who had impacted patient care through innovation. Today, with Cohen at the helm, the foundation has held seven successful ceremonies in the U.S. and expanded its presence to emerging countries.

PM360: The Prix Galien USA Awards ceremony continues to grow each year. What has enabled you to continue the success of this foundation and this annual event?

Bruno Cohen: Our independence and impartiality, thanks to the intellectual rigor of the event’s committee, are the keys to the influence of the organization and awards. The Foundation is an independent voice to promote, recognize and reward work conducted by researchers and innovators in the biopharmaceutical industry. This is what has pushed the Prix Galien USA Awards as the biomedical industry’s highest accolade. It recognizes the technical, scientific and clinical research skills necessary to develop innovative medicines and devices. This year’s Prix Galien USA received its highest number of nominees since its inception—a great achievement toward our goals.

It is crucial to point out that the event couldn’t happen without the support of the committee. It is truly remarkable to see a group of scientific luminary experts come together, including top leaders in academia such as Laurie Glimcher, Paul Marks, Marc Tessier-Lavigne; Nobel Laureates such as Richard Axel, Michael Brown, Joseph Goldstein, Bengt Samuelsson and Elie Wiesel; and former CEOs such as Dr. P. Roy Vagelos, Chair of the Committee of Prix Galien USA, who is the former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Merck and current Chair of Regeneron.

Now overseeing five country events, what is your role and how are you able to keep organized so each event is successful?

My role with the Galien Foundation is to oversee the operations of five country events—including Russia, Brazil, Israel, Greece and the United States—and ensure that communications and strategies are aligned. My next challenge is to expand the movement in Asia including Japan, China, India and the MENA Region.

As each country has its own specificity, I learn a lot from each organizing team, their regional policies and challenges in bringing innovation forward. I’m able to take these learnings to benchmark and apply them in other countries to continue the development of the Galien Foundation.

Finally, I am responsible for connecting the Galien Foundation with member country heads-of-state. The Foundation is honored to have been recognized by global leaders such as current U.S. President Barack Obama, former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy and current President Francois Hollande, and the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, all who have been supportive of our goal to celebrate biopharmaceutical innovation.

How is the Galien Foundation internally structured? Who selects the winners of the USA Awards?

The Galien Foundation is a not-for-profit organization with two totally independent bodies—the Executive Advisory Board and the committee—whose members are highly experienced and recognized experts from the life science industry, including Nobel Prize Laureates. The Foundation receives support from members and partners who share a common interest in fostering healthcare issues and represent a range of professional, industrial and individual interests.

The Prix Galien USA Award committee comprises an unrivaled network of leaders in the biomedical industry and academia who evaluate the nominees. This year the committee judged candidates in three categories including Best Medical Technology Product, Best Pharmaceutical Agent and Best Biotechnology Product.

Additionally, the Prix Galien acknowledges excellence and novelty, and awards special honors to those who impact humanity. The Pro Bono Humanum Award recognizes exemplary and innovative efforts in improving the human condition. This year’s award was presented to Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for his remarkable strides in furthering the understanding of AIDS and its destructive impact on the body’s immune system. Previous recipients of the Pro Bono Humanum Award include: Dr. Francis S. Collins (2012), Professor Paul Farmer (2011), President Bill Clinton and Philippe Douste-Blazy (2010), Professor Barry Bloom and Dr. Jeffrey Sachs (2009), Sheldon Segal and the Population Council (2008), and Dr. P. Roy Vagelos (2007).

At this year’s Prix Galien USA Awards ceremony, you announced the Prix Galien International Awards. Can you explain a little more about this event and new initiatives for 2014?

Prix Galien International will recognize the best-of-the-best in biopharmaceutical innovation. The event, which will be held biennially, will include the winners from each of 16 Prix Galien Awards ceremonies held across the globe. The first ceremony will take place on December 10th, 2014 in Jerusalem.

Now with several years of success, we created this event to enable the industry to appreciate their far-reaching global impact and the role that country-specific innovation plays within the worldwide health community.

In addition, I am happy to announce that in 2014, the Galien Foundation and UBIFRANCE will launch “UBISTART” in order to enable, encourage and reward international partnerships between French startups and North American innovators within the healthcare industry where innovation, scientific excellence and commercial goals are of utmost importance.

Finally, what is your overall vision of the Galien Foundation moving forward?

The Galien Foundation is tasked with elevating appreciation of the biomedical industry within its community and among public health and political leaders. I hope that one day, when you ask kids what they want to be in their professional futures, they might say, I want to work in the biotech industry to develop life-saving advancements.

Some people disregard the intentions of our industry. However, I always think back to my mentor, Nobel Peace-Prize Laureate Professor Elie Wiesel, who stated that his goal is “for people outside the industry to see that those working in the industry are focused on saving lives and improving the human condition.” This call to action motivates me, our many volunteers and hopefully will inspire greater collaboration among the community seeking a healthier world.

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