American Way It's said that right after Novartis raised its equity stake in Roche to 32.7 percent and triggered rumors that your company was about to be swallowed up, you went off for a ski weekend. True?
Franz Humer Yes, I went skiing. [Laughs] But that is really not the major point. The point behind your question is, where do I stand on megamergers. I believe megamergers are not a means of raising the productivity of research. On the contrary, they destroy much research. And the success of our business is founded on experimental development. That's why I do not believe megamergers are the right way forward.
American Way Why do you believe that megamergers destroy drug development?
Humer Research and drug development are intricate, complex, interrelated
processes. If you disturb that process, it comes to a halt. Research is very sensitive, highly intellectual. It needs a lot of patience. You destroy that when you embark on a megamerger. Things get focused on internal matters, on who gets what job, on which project gets carried forward and which gets killed. Researchers need an environment where their creativity gets maintained and increased, not where it gets diverted and stifled.
American Way Back to the skiing: Why are you unconcerned about Novartis' stake in your company?
Humer Because we have a clear shareholding structure. Two families [the Hoffmanns and Oeris] own a majority of voting shares, and they have very clearly said they have no intention of relinquishing that majority, that they firmly believe in the strategy that the board and management have put forward over the last few years. They're committed to maintaining the independence of Roche as one of the world's leading healthcare companies.
American Way Where do you see healthcare going? Arguably we're at a place where the biggest changes in medicine in perhaps 2,000 years are about to occur.