Skip to main content
Héctor Ara

partner and president of the Administrative Board at Suan Farma

He holds a degree in Economics, Business and Political Science and a doctorate in Entrepreneurship. He has worked in the pharmaceutical and chemical sector for over 30 years. Suan Farma is a successful group of companies in the biotech sector with strong international projection.

As an entrepreneur, what is your take on the biotechnology sector’s growth over the coming years and what recommendations do you have for entrepreneurs that want to start their own project now?

I recommend they work with a consultancy that specializes in this sector. They should also participate in the numerous international events available in order to network with other players and look to form alliances. They need to be open to this type of alliance because they are essential to shortening development time and lowering costs.

Suan Farma is a holding company with different products as well as a growing pharmaceutical consultancy. In your experience, what will be the future niche markets and what strategy would you recommend to start out in, focus on or diversify into one of them?

I don’t think we should choose only one option: we must be able to diversify but also focus on projects with a technical complexity that requires specialization. However, regarding the timeline, it’s best to focus first on one market or project that will allow you to gain experience and knowledge, as well as build a team that will help face diversification, both of products and markets, as soon as possible with less risk.

How will biosimilars affect the current pharmaceutical market?

I believe that biosimilars are a new opportunity because they allow small and medium sized companies in the pharmaceutical sector to stake a claim in markets developed by innovative companies when their patents expire. The fact that they are not considered generics does not mean that there aren’t a lot of similarities between the market that is opening up for biosimilars and the one that became available to generics. It is true that the regulatory barriers (and development costs) are high, and this reduces the number of players, but this type of project is also much larger and more capable of attracting funding.

What impact do you think they will have in the future, taking into account that they cannot be considered generics?

It’s a question of time, but in my opinion biosimilars will end up with a similar market share to that which generic drugs currently occupy. The impact of biosimilars will, therefore, be noteworthy. This is a potential market worth 25 billion euros and, given the high development costs, companies involved have a very high potential. In fact, a number of the so-called big pharma companies have already shown interest in this new market. The fact that biosimilars can’t be (or haven’t been) considered generic drugs is based on chemical factors (no two biological molecules are the same) but does not affect the way the market and its players behave and we believe that things will unfold within the normal competitive parameters.

How do you focus the internationalization process?

We established two parameters for our internationalization strategy initially, which helped us design and develop it: the size of the domestic market, in this case the four BRIC countries far surpass what we consider a large market (50 million inhabitants), and the level of development of pharmaceutical regulations, which we categorize as high, medium or low.

Regarding international markets, what opportunities and challenges do the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) pose for local entrepreneurs?

The BRIC countries as classified as medium regulatory level. Commercial penetration in these countries is complex because they are already somewhat saturated and have notable regulatory demands. For the first stage, in the pharmaceutical market, we believe it best to focus on smaller markets with lower regulatory demands until we have formed a solid team and acquired sufficient knowledge to move into more demanding markets. We also think it’s a good idea to test the waters in the American market as soon as possible because, although it is generally known as a market that is difficult to penetrate, its transparency and dynamism, as well as the relatively simple access to clients, make it very cheap to start out in. And, moreover, it’s the largest market in the world...

What is lacking in the new projects you evaluate and what opportunities do they have?

Regarding opportunities, we see a lot of big ideas and projects that come out of published articles and new work, which shows that Spanish research is top-notch on an international level. However, we still need to increase the number of patents. To do this we need to change our mentality and patent before we publish. As for weaknesses, the main thing the projects we evaluate are lacking is management skills, which is well known and limited to the commercialization aspect of the projects. This fact leads to 90% of all business failures.

What is your take on Catalonia’s potential as a center to drive business?

Catalonia has a long history of entrepreneurship, which is difficult to match even on an international level. On the institutional level, we see dynamism and a constant drive to expand that, moreover, are based on solid support from the industrial fabric and the past and present of Catalan entrepreneurialism. In my opinion, all of this constitutes an excellent breeding ground for the new entrepreneurial initiatives we all need so much. Catalans have little left to learn in this regard, but I would like Catalonia to lead the way in creating a school of entrepreneurialism to offer specific training, start-up incubator facilities and guidance for entrepreneurial initiatives from their first steps through consolidation.

What are your plans for the future here?

Catalonia has always been a land of entrepreneurs and businesspeople. I lived in Barcelona from 1983 to 1988 and I was impressed by the Catalan’s capacity to take bold action without relinquishing common sense, or seny as it is known here. I always tell my children that Catalonia gave me fundamental knowledge, on a professional and a personal level, that allowed me to mature in both ways. In 2001, Suan Farma, which has had an office in Barcelona since it was founded in 1993, acquired Plantes Medicinals de Catalunya (Plameca, located in l’Hospitalet), which will inaugurate a new factory this year in Pallejà del Vallès. In 2005, I moved to Sitges and hope to stay there for as long as possible. In 2008, we founded Salupharma Biosimilars in Barcelona, which is one of the few international initiatives in this field, and we have reached an agreement with the UAB to collaborate on this ambitious project.

Sign up for our newsletters

Stay up-to-date on the latest news, events and trends in the BioRegion.