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The man behind £ 6.6 billion health pioneer Organon wants to “give women the health care they deserve”


Start: Simon Nicholson led Organon’s $ 9.4 billion float

The opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange is still ringing in Simon Nicholson’s ears after last week’s blockbuster floating.

Its rebranded $ 9.4 billion (£ 6.6 billion) pharmaceutical giant Organon was spun off Thursday from its parent company, $ 190 billion industrial company Merck.

And Nicholson – a rarity as a British man who ran a large international division of a US company specializing in medicines for women – watched the trial over a video link in London.

“We’re starting a company the world has never seen before,” he says, apparently still inspired by Organon’s public debut, which was set up to operate in a market valued at $ 41 billion by 2027 becomes.

“There is a huge unmet need for women’s health that manifests itself differently in different countries,” says Nicholson. “But it’s common for women not to get the care and medication they deserve. We’re starting an organization obsessed with changing the scale and speed of this situation for women. ‘

Nicholson, based in Hertfordshire, is responsible for Organon for 11 countries including the UK, Ireland and the Nordic and Baltic countries. The UK is home to one of its six global manufacturing centers and will play a central role when the company is on its own.

Organon doesn’t start from scratch: it already makes 60 products and sells them in 140 countries, researches, develops and creates drugs from scratch.

It has prescription drugs that treat heart, skin, and breathing conditions and makes a number of “biosimilars” – cheaper alternatives to licensed big brands.

There are already a number of products specifically designed for women, particularly long-acting reversible contraceptives.

His goal is to become “the world’s leading company with a focus on women’s health”.

It targets growing markets for “long-acting reversible contraceptives” – such as regular hormone injections – and IVF drugs as fertility treatments become increasingly popular.

Women’s Health: Organon aims to become “the global leader in women’s health,” according to Simon Nicholson, one of its business unit directors

Nicholson also hopes the company can meet a company’s need to “advance science” in the treatment of conditions such as endometriosis – where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows elsewhere – and fibroids, the non-cancerous growths found in or develop around the uterus.

He also cites research on menopause and contraception.

Of course, the motivation isn’t entirely altruistic: Merck is expected to receive a $ 9 billion injection and huge cost savings from the spin-off. The stock rose 8 percent to $ 37 on its debut.

Nicholson, who spent the pandemic in a log cabin in his garden, says his teacher is the “main carer” of the family, adding, “Women often think of others in this duty of care. And therefore, even if unconsciously, perhaps neglecting yourself ” [in seeking treatment]. ‘

As a taste of what’s to come, Organon recently announced its first acquisition – $ 240 million for Alydia Health of California, a medical device maker that seeks to prevent mothers from bleeding profusely and dying after childbirth.

“There will be more acquisitions like this,” says Nicholson. “We search the world for assets or solutions, be it drugs, devices or services.” The pandemic has made healthcare a hot market for investors.

But on site, the services were turned upside down. MSD – the name Merck uses outside of the United States – provides the NHS with caregivers who specialize in contraception. Nonetheless, says Nicholson, the ability for women to use these services is “decimated” as the fight against Covid-19 is a priority.

Similarly, the company’s efforts to supply and develop drugs to aid conception by women without personal advice have been hampered.

According to Nicholson, fertility is likely a major growth market in the UK, worth £ 320 million a year and growing 3 percent annually.

He suffered his own harrowing exposure to Covid waiting to be admitted in an ambulance in a hospital parking lot for 12 hours and as an inpatient for a week.

“It just showed the incredible pressure the system is under. It took me three months to really feel better.”

Nicholson says the pandemic is an opportunity to rethink and discusses how services can better work with the NHS.

His ideas include redesigning the services targeted at women – from general practitioners’ offices to specialized sexual health clinics – and increasing the use of video consultation hours.

The spin-off from Merck is another chapter for Organon, a company that started out in the 1920s from an empire with a meat packing factory in the Netherlands.

It was owned by multinationals AkzoNobel and Schering-Plow, which merged with Merck in 2009 and inherited Nicholson, who has been with the company for 15 years.

He started in car rental and then made a career in the pharmaceuticals industry at Searle and later at Pfizer.

Organon does a lot of the gender diversity of its board of directors: 70 percent of its directors at the global level are female, and the division on CEO Nicholson’s team is 50:50.

The chairman is industry veteran Carrie Cox and the CEO is former Merck man Kevin Ali.

Wouldn’t Nicholson’s job have been better filled with a woman?

“Good question,” he replies. “We have a number of boys and a number of women. We are all absolutely excited about putting women first and fulfilling our mission. Women’s health has been a constant part of my career, sometimes by design and sometimes by accident.

“For over 20 years I have been working either centrally or more peripherally in the field of women’s health and am therefore really passionate about it.”

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