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INNOVATION | Bayer aiming to stay one step ahead — U.S. leader Dable: Innovation will help solve unmet needs

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Habib Dable, head of the U.S. division of Bayer in Whippany.
Habib Dable, head of the U.S. division of Bayer in Whippany. - ()

Bayer is proud its name always will be associated with its aspirin.

But as it expands its footprint in New Jersey, Bayer officials say it also wants to be known as something else: A global company at the forefront of innovation.

Habib Dable, who took over as head the U.S. division of the company in Whippany last fall, said it’s time to get the word out.

“Bayer in the U.S. is an aspirin company and is proud of the heritage associated with that,” he said. “But what people don’t recognize is Bayer has played a strong role in the area of high unmet needs.”

Dable highlighted the recent FDA approval of Kovaltry, a treatment for hemophilia A in adolescents and adults, and the company’s efforts in materials science, life science, pharmaceuticals and agriculture. And he stressed Bayer’s increased focus on women’s health and oncology while maintaining its position with consumer products, such as Claritin.

But mostly, Dable talked about staying one step ahead.

This is especially true in pharmaceuticals, he said.

“Within the pharma business, the key for us as we move forward is to add tremendous value to the patients we are serving. Identifying segments and making sure we invest in unmet needs where innovation can help the patient’s life,” Dable said.

In the last decade, Dable said, the company has had a heavy focus on oncology, investing up to 40 percent in funding of research and development.

“We want to establish ourselves as innovators and, with much more visibility in the community, it will lead to my ultimate goal to be a partner of choice,” he said.

Like every other pharma company, Dable said, Bayer faces the same challenges and criticisms in the market, but it is staying focused on the objectives.

Raymond Kerins, senior vice president and head of communications.
Raymond Kerins, senior vice president and head of communications.

Playing an active role in the community
The high-tech, state-of-the-art facility Bayer opened in Whippany in 2013 has been great for corporate culture, Bayer executives said.
Comfortable office locations complete with numerous communal areas, food options and a heavily discounted employee store make it a great place to work, they said.
And while Bayer has created an environment in which employees may never want to leave the 95-acre campus, senior vice president and head of communications Raymond Kerins said the company is pushing for more interaction with the community.
Built around the comfortable office space is a comfortable culture as well, which includes a focus on volunteering and STEM, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics, programs with schools.
In addition to paid time off, including an additional floating holiday to be used for whatever is important for the employee — ranging from anniversaries and birthdays to religious holidays — the company also offers two days for employees to volunteer in the community.

“We recognize that not everything we do or every project we engage in is a success,” he said. “But we are committed to delivering and being a significant leader and driving innovation. It’s a difficult story to tell when the success rates are 1 in 10 or 1 in 9.

“What we are focusing on is listening to our customers. What are patients seeking in unmet needs and what do doctors need for innovation breakthroughs?”

One of those areas is women’s health.

After entering the contraceptive market in 2006, integrating with the parent company of Mirena and Skyla, Dable said the company has heard from customers that there is still room to grow in the intrauterine device market.

“We, as potential pioneers, are ideal partners,” he said. “It should be taken further and we are looking to expand our footprint.”

Sometimes that means creating a new company. Last September, the company renamed its materials science division Covestro, and listed it on the stock market.

The company is now legally and economically independent, but it remains a subsidiary of Bayer.

For Dable, such a move is the norm.

He has seen the transformation of the company over the years, having climbed the ladder since his start with the company in sales soon after college in Canada.

The company store at Bayer offers large discounts for employees, with lots to choose from.
The company store at Bayer offers large discounts for employees, with lots to choose from.

“It sounds like (I’ve only been) with one company and, on the surface, yes … but this is my 10th job at Bayer,” he said. “I’ve worked in three different countries, in general medicine, specialty, biologics, sales and marketing and strategic planning.There is a large amount of opportunity and learning and fun. I’ve been watching the company grow.”

And with the growing portfolio comes a need for space in Whippany, which Bayer officials now consider to be the company’s U.S. headquarters.

Bayer has been consolidating its employees to New Jersey in the past three years; it now has 2,300 employees in the high-tech, 95-acre campus in Whippany that opened in 2013. It also has purchased 85 acres of land adjacent to the property.

Company officials would not specifically say Bayer is planning on adding to its existing footprint, only saying the purchase gives the company more options.

“We are pleased to have purchased this property, as it gives us more flexibility and options to support our long-term growth plans as a life science company,” a spokesman said. “The transaction also demonstrates the importance of Bayer’s presence in Morris County and New Jersey. We intend to use the property to make improvements at the site that will benefit employees and the community.”

E-mail to: anjaleek@njbiz.com

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