- Insider identified healthcare leaders changing the business across Europe, the Americas, and Asia. stood out despite, or because of, the coronavirus pandemic.
- During the pandemic there has been extensive focus on research and drug development. But telemedicine and other innovations have also been at the forefront.
- The surge of interest in healthcare hasn’t obscured issues facing healthcare globally, however, as big economies grapple with aging populations and rising health costs.
- 100 People Transforming Business is an annual list and series highlighting those across industries who are changing the way the world does business. Check out the full list for 2020.
The coronavirus is defining 2020. Our list of healthcare Transformers includes leaders who worked through, around, and against the pandemic.
For most of this year, just everything seems to be defined through the lens of the coronavirus pandemic.
It has plunged the global economy into a recession, took hundreds of thousands of lives, and put plans on hold. It’s suspended medical procedures and global efforts to fight other infectious diseases and exposed weaknesses in countries’ leadership and public-health systems.
But facing such a crisis also meant that healthcare businesses had an opportunity to meet a huge need, and some have thrived. It’s part of what guided our thinking when we created Business Insider’s 2020 list of 30 people transforming healthcare in Europe, Asia, and North America.
The list recognizes that during the pandemic, an intense focus fell on pharmaceutical companies and medical research. Massive sums of money poured into drug companies to help them win the race for coronavirus treatments and vaccines.
The quest for a vaccine
Among those leading the charge for a vaccine were Sarah Gilbert at Oxford University and Stephane Bancel, Moderna’s CEO. Biocon in India pushed forward a treatment for the virus, with CEO Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw at the helm.
Drug companies have been a huge moneymaker at a time when other healthcare businesses suffered. Fast-tracking coronavirus vaccines could also uncover new ways to conduct research and reveal how much the industry can accomplish when it becomes hyper-focused and resourced.
To be sure, our list of Transformers would have looked very different if the pandemic hadn’t happened. High-income countries face similar challenges to each other. Their populations are aging, they’re strained by rising overall healthcare costs, and they struggle to coordinate medical care for people with chronic conditions.
While those struggles may be obscured by the shadow of the pandemic, they haven’t gone away. In fact, they’re still going to be problems in the long term. For that reason, our list also showcases leaders who pressed on in their work even as the virus capsized daily life.
Among them are Onno van de Stolpe, founder and CEO of Galapagos, a Dutch-Belgian biotech company that saw promising results for a rheumatoid arthritis treatment; and Hubert Martens, founder and CEO at Dutch biotech company Sirius Medical, which is working to improve breast cancer surgery.
Some leaders were discovering new ways to deliver care while coming up with solutions to the coronavirus pandemic. As president of health platforms at Alphabet’s life sciences arm Verily, Vivian Lee is working with engineers to build products that help people manage type 2 diabetes. She’s also overseeing tools that help hospitals give patients coronavirus information and a back-to-work program for employers and colleges.
“If Covid has done anything, it’s really, really emphasized the absolute, essential urgency that we get on to improving our healthcare system and our public health system,” Lee told Business Insider.
Though the virus obscured so much, it also put a magnifying glass on long-simmering inequalities. People with good health can more easily survive a coronavirus infection, and people’s health is determined not only by their genetics but where and how they live, and how much care they can get.
Some leaders sought to turn that around. Ala Stanford saw that Black communities in America were being hardest hit by the virus. In response, she founded the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium to deploy a team of doctors and nurses that conducts free testing in Philadelphia.
New ways to treat patients
We’re still struggling to understand the coronavirus and how to get back to normal. But once we’re past the pandemic there will be some parts of healthcare that will never be the same, and maybe some changes will actually improve healthcare.
For instance, with so many people stuck inside, the pandemic propelled doctors to provide care by phone and video, which allowed them to keep delivering care while revolutionizing the way they work with patients. When we spoke with healthcare CEOs earlier this year, they identified the change as a permanent fixture in the healthcare system.
Some leaders already understood digital health was key to healthcare’s future, and the need for their businesses became even more apparent. Liao Jieyuan, CEO of WeDoctor in China, oversees a tool that makes it easier to set up doctor’s appointments.
Kentaro Yoshifuji, founder and CEO of Ory Laboratory in Japan, created a robot that helps fight loneliness for people with disabilities and others who cannot leave their homes. CEO Xavier Palomer oversees Barcelona-based Psious, a company that treats people’s stress and anxiety by using virtual reality.
“Ten years from now I want to be proud of helping millions of people around the world to live happier lives, free from mental health problems,” Palomar said on the company’s website.