Transition, according to Dame Louise Makin, is a way of life for BTG.
This is absolutely evident, looking at the evolution of BTG. Starting life as a broad based IP licensing business in 2004, BTG has grown from 57 people into a £2.6 billion medtech company providing speciality pharmaceuticals and groundbreaking interventional medicine.
“We asked ourselves, what are the trends we can just see going on forever? I call it squaring the circle. People will get older, health care costs will get higher. Unless we can use technology to fundamentally change how things are done, there will be no progress.”
The figures tell the same story. BTG’s market capitalisation has increased a phenomenal seventeen-fold, total return is greater than 600% and shares are up 13% in just the last 12 months.
Simon French, Panmure Gordon’s chief economist, asks Makin how she’s managed to build such a prosperous and talented business. She explains that it is all about the people.
“I am a real believer in the quality of people, and how they work together is absolutely fundamental. We ultimately need people who are able to work together for the best interests of the patients.”
Makin explains that the interventional medicine arm, which is now the heart of the BTG business, was born in 2011. With five acquisitions since then, and BTG now processing sales across three continents, this is the biggest growth area of the company. French asks why interventional medicine — oncology in particular — is a key area for BTG.
Why interventional medicine?
To understand why interventional oncology is so important for the business, Makin suggests we step back and think about traditional cancer treatments. The options are generally invasive surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy with some variations on that order.
Interventional medicine, however, is truly groundbreaking. The body can be imaged and entered through the arterial system rather than opened for surgery. Ultimately, this form of medicine can now replace an invasive operation of 3-4 weeks recovery time with a 40 minute procedure. There’s no need for general anesthetic or an overnight stay. With less patient time, costs are vastly reduced and more hospital beds can be freed up.
“In the interventional medicine space,” Makin says, “there’s no cutting open or poisoning of the body. BTG has leading therapies in chemo, radiation, and alternative to surgery using ice to cut out the tumor. We’re the only company that has those.”
“If you can work to take fundamental costs out of a system, then you can create value. That value can be shared with hospitals and with shareholders.”
So, with this in mind, where does Makin see the future of BTG?
“These are high-growth products in under penetrated areas,” Makin explains. “So for now we’re focusing on growing those businesses, but we’re looking to use the cash we generate to invest in new products and new business areas. With our speciality pharmaceutical business and interventional medicine therapies we’ve still got lots of scope to grow our portfolios.”
Will Brexit impact BTG?
As a business operating across three continents while based in the UK, it’s a prudent question. Makin explains to David Buik, Panmure Gordon’s senior market commentator, that almost 90% of BTG’s revenue is in US dollars, so with Brexit the biggest challenge is exchange rates.
As a global operation, BTG is naturally interested in attracting and placing talent at home and around the world. More importantly, however, BTG has a vested interest in any regulatory impact for the medical industry. For BTG, any increased complexity that blocks its business processes is a cause for concern.
“In some parts of the world the bureaucracy really gets in the way. We’re all about speed to market, and the more we can carve pathways from a good idea, to getting the data and approval, then we can start talking to doctors and patients.”
What about major health care debates in the US?
Makin tells Panmure Gordon that BTG has its eye on opening up more of the vast US healthcare market. Aware of ongoing debates in US politics, French asks Makin if issues around drug pricing and repealing Obamacare are a concern to BTG.
As BTG is more focused on creating value in the healthcare system and reducing the steps in care, the issue of drug prices has much less impact than other large pharmaceutical companies spending large amounts of money of clinical trials.
The issue of public access to healthcare, by the same token, is unlikely to affect BTG. “In a pragmatic sense, we didn’t see a bump up when Obamacare came in,” she tells Buik. “We’re probably more specialised and not linked to volume trends. So, it’s not that we want it to go back, but we just don’t think it will affect our business.”
How does BTG achieve business agility?
Finally, as a clear industry leader in interventional medicine, Panmure Gordon is fascinated to know how BTG overcomes regulatory complexity and achieves its advanced speed to market.
“Everything is a lot easier if you get good data,” admits Makin. “And that’s what we do, we invest to get the right data. Fundamentally, we make sure we do the right thing, we get the right data to prove safe effectiveness, and value for money. Let’s get these things in the hands of physicians and patients as quickly as possible, that’s what BTG likes to see.”