June 12, 2021
Ten years ago, Elvis Garcia would never have pictured himself working at Takeda. As a public health worker, he had dedicated his life to fighting epidemics in low-income countries, working with non-governmental organizations to vaccinate and protect communities against Ebola, cholera, malaria and other infectious diseases.
He couldn’t think of a more fulfilling path, although it came with the pain of knowing how many lives he couldn’t save in many situations, due to a desperate lack of effective vaccines or treatments.
“During one malaria epidemic in a remote region of the Central African Republic, we were receiving hundreds of children per day, sheltering them under tents,” he recalls. “You feel powerless knowing that a considerable number of those kids will die no matter how hard you try to help them.”
Still, his plan was to remain in the field, saving as many lives as possible. Then a chance encounter with Rajeev Venkayya, President of Takeda’s Global Vaccine Business Unit, changed his mind by showing him that the company’s single-minded focus is on putting patients first — no matter who or where they are.
“I was at an event in Boston, and he spoke about the dengue vaccine Takeda was developing,” Elvis says. “His vision was to make it available to everybody who needed it. His focus on global health and how to address developing communities’ needs caught my attention. As a hard-core humanitarian worker, it challenged all the preconceptions I had about pharma companies.”
The chance meeting evolved into a position for Elvis to join Takeda and advise the company on making access a core part of its vaccine business model, a natural extension of our patient-centric approach.
“It’s an opportunity to continue saving lives at a much broader scale,” Elvis says. “Our mandate is to factor access into every aspect of vaccine development, from early-stage launch preparations to packaging and labeling, so that at launch it’s positioned to be available to as many people as possible.”
As part of Global Market Access, Vaccines, Elvis is helping Takeda pioneer this model in preparation for the launch of its dengue vaccine.
“It’s quite a disruptive approach as the industry tends to treat access as an ‘add-on’ after launch. It will take a strong commitment from many stakeholders to usher in a new era of access to medicines. However, if there’s one company that can do it, it's Takeda, because I’ve learned firsthand how truly committed we are to making things better for patients.”