Roche celebrates 75 years in Uruguay with a strong development projection

The pioneering biotechnology company consolidates its presence in the country with innovative projects supported by Uruguay’s solid public-private ecosystem.
Publication date: 02/06/2023

The Swiss biotech company Roche, a pioneer in research and development, is celebrating 75 years in Uruguay. Currently, the company, which employs 150 people in the country for its Pharmaceuticals, Diagnostics, and Diabetes Care divisions, has a logistics center that distributes to the entire continent and a regulatory affairs center that handles global operations. In addition, Roche manages the Bolivian and Paraguayan markets from Montevideo.

“Uruguay provides us with a stability of institutions, regulatory frameworks, outstanding education, and talents, which create a solid base to build our long-term presence,” said Roche’s general manager for Uruguay, Bolivia, and Paraguay, french Nathalie Leclerc, arrived in the country to take up the position.

“Uruguay received me and my family very well. It created an effortless integration, both personally and at work. As a European, I can say that the culture, the way of working, the way we relate to each other did not represent a culture shock,” she added about her arrival in the country.

Among the reasons for Roche’s long-lasting relationship with Uruguay, Leclerc highlighted the openness of institutions and the government to work with companies and establish public-private partnerships. “We can have a dialogue to find solutions to our challenges, but also to open up new opportunities,” she emphasized.

She also valued the country’s strengths in the healthcare field in which the company operates. “Uruguay has a system that enjoys universal coverage, fairly equitable access to innovation, a good health system infrastructure, the quality of people and education. We have seen this in the good management of the pandemic,” she said. She added that Uruguay’s solid digital infrastructure and electronic medical records represent a “huge potential” for data-driven decision-making.

“Roche is the largest biotechnology company in the world, the one that invests the most in research and development, which is why we like to invest in countries where there is access to education, where there is an investment in health to contribute to the quality of life of people and the well-being of the population. In Uruguay, we find precisely this environment, both in people and with the government”, she added.

From Uruguay, Roche manages the distribution center for the entire regional stock. These are highly complex products that require excellent cold chain management, which is guaranteed by the good infrastructure offered by the country, but also by its privileged geographical location and its policy of free ports and airports that provide agility to the distribution processes.

From Uruguay, Roche innovates with strategic alliances
Recently, the Institut Pasteur of Montevideo, the University of the Republic of Uruguay, the Institut Roche Paris, and Roche Uruguay signed an innovative cooperation agreement that will open new avenues of research in cancer immunotherapy.

This project will involve an interdisciplinary team of immunologists, biologists, and bioinformaticians from all institutions. This group, with the support of Roche, will establish a new state-of-the-art technology platform to carry out studies on patient samples and experimental models, as well as to learn with a high degree of precision the immune response of an organism.

Specifically, the new technology will make it possible to study, cell by cell, how genes are expressed through messenger RNA analysis. Thus, from blood samples or tissue biopsies, it will be possible to sequence the RNA of each cell to evaluate the immune response fully without relying on prior knowledge.

Leclerc emphasized that this is the first time that Roche has had a collaboration of this type in Latin America, and it is expected to have a significant impact. “This agreement will not only open new avenues of research in the field of cancer immunotherapy, in line with our commitment to improving the lives of patients, it also implies the incorporation of technology to the country and, therefore, impacts on social progress. We are very proud to be able to contribute,” she said.

The Health Movement 2030, founded by Roche and the Copenhagen Institute for Future Studies in 2020 and promoted by experts at a global level, has been working in Uruguay for two years with substantial results. It was recently consolidated as the Health Movement Foundation, adding Microsoft and Siemens Healthineers as co-founders. This initiative aims to promote innovation in healthcare systems, provide solutions to the multiple challenges of the sector, and accelerate the evolution towards more resilient and sustainable methods.

“Our responsibility is to provide treatments and work on all aspects of the healthcare system with all stakeholders. We have been working on this with the Health Movement and other organizations such as the National Agency for Research and Innovation (ANII), the Ministry of Public Health, and healthcare providers such as CASMU, Hospital de Clínicas, and CAMS. Also, with Uruguayan entrepreneurs working in the area,” explained Leclerc.

Finally, he referred to the spillover of Roche’s operations in the country and other local companies. One case is the distribution in Uruguay with its partner Farmalog. This alliance allows Roche to have a modern distribution and operation center with more than 1,000 square meters, including cold rooms, technical service, offices, and storage space.

This center is located in Farmalog, an Uruguayan company with more than 70 employees and 13 years of experience as a logistics and strategic partner of Roche, which has certifications in Good Practices, quality assurance systems, and a quality control laboratory, which guarantees the highest levels of quality and safety in the handling of products, as well as strict compliance with the highest world-class standards.

“Uruguay provides us with stability for the future, which is something we value very much at Roche, even more so as a pharmaceutical innovation and diagnostics company since we have very long development and cycle times. In our industry, having this long-term vision gives us peace of mind,” concluded Leclerc.

Analía Pazos, Roche Logistics and Purchasing Manager: “Some pillars attract multinationals to Uruguay: political, social and economic stability, legal regulations that provide guarantees, free trade zones, free port and airport, and skilled labor. Uruguay is a logistics and distribution enclave for different countries”.