Rodrigue G. Schübelin and Andrea Fortuna, Partners,
PwC Italy Pharma & Life Sciences
"The pharma industry once again stands out as an anti-cyclical safe harbor investment and one of the few industries that thrived in what has turned out as the biggest recession since the Great Depression." -RGS
Can you tell us about PwC’s life sciences branch in Italy and your core activities? RGS: The Pharma and Life Sciences division at PwC Italy is one of the key industries where we embed our service offer across a wide range of competences. Given that the health industry generates some €110 billion growth revenues and hence contributes to about 10% of Italy’s total GDP, the pharma sector is an important economic driver; PwC dedicated professionals in all lines of work, from assurance services, to consulting, deals tax and legal to serve this strategic industry. The healthcare system was put under a lot of pressure with the pandemic, in Italy as elsewhere. How is the Italian public sector mobilizing to create greater resilience in the future? AF: The healthcare sector has gained greater centrality in the political agenda; rather than being seen as a cost burden, it is seen now as a strategic asset and an essential pillar to ensuring better quality of life and socio-economic development. The Italian NHS continues to be recognized throughout the world as one of the most effective and efficient universalistic systems, but the Covid-19 emergency has shown the need to strengthen some key elements, also in consideration of demographic and epidemiological trends. The Italian Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR), financed with over 235 billion euros, represents a unique opportunity. It is divided into six missions, one of which is specifically dedicated to Healthcare (20 billion euros). The funds are aimed at two main pillars: the first is to improve “Proximity networks, facilities and telemedicine for territorial healthcare assistance”, that includes home care, long-term care and primary care. 9 billion euros are dedicated to this first mega-goal. The second pillar worth 11 billion euros is dedicated to innovation, research, and digitalization in the NHS. This will entail the update of technological equipment and infrastructure, the improvement of the health information systems and digital tools. One billion euros will go into training, biomedical research and tech transfers. What drives M&A activity in Italy and what are the most sought-after pharma assets? RGS: The pharma industry once again stands out as an anti-cyclical safe harbor investment and one of the few industries that thrived in what has turned out as the biggest recession since the Great Depression. Innovative biotech, cell and gene therapy, oncology and rare diseases are attracting the most interest and are seeing extremely high valuations. Liquidity is certainly in the market, so the challenge is to identify a distinctive target; when the chase starts, there is fierce competition in closing the deal. In 2020, Menarini, Italy’s largest pharma company completed the biggest acquisition in its history in the midst of the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown, which shows the capacity of the industry to address boldly and strategically times of crisis by seizing the opportunities it brings along. Where do you see as the biggest opportunities in the Italian life science industry? RGS: The biggest opportunity for the industry is to help correct some historic flaws revealed by the pandemic and tailor to an ageing population through preventative care. After an 18-months delay during which people did not go to see their doctors for diagnostics or treatment we see nowadays the “return-to-care” as one of the key challenges and opportunities for the entire Health industry. What are your main priorities for the next 2-3 years? AF: In supporting as Knowledge partner of the Health & Life Sciences task force of B20 that will be held in Italy in 2021, one of the main discussions taking place is how to maintain the momentum (e.g. accelerated routes to investigate and adopt Research and Technology) and implement the lessons learned during this difficult period to contribute to the development of the sector in the future. Our mission at PwC is to "build trust in society and solve important problems" and, with that said, our ambition is to keep being an important player in a sector that is increasingly more preeminent in Italy’s economical, political and social agenda.