It really seems that you all agree in one thing: there is still an incredible power hidden in this country. That is what I sense.
Boutaris: I always say that we are going to be the next booming economy but my friends think I am only joking.
Stergiou: When I returned to Greece as a physician and entrepreneur in 2011, my favourite quote was from Louis Pasteur: Change favours the mind that is prepared. I am born and raised German and I have lived almost all my life in Hagen, Germany. It was only later that I studied science and medicine in the USA. So I am used to change and like to think I am prepared for it as well. I think it is important for Germans to understand that Greeks are not „bad Germans“. This is an erroneous label.
Greeks belong to a completely different culture. You might ask why not more Greeks are working on the farm, or why do they spend money on the island of Mykonos, when they should worry where they are going to find money tomorrow to pay their bills and for their medicine. Most of the time they don’t worry so much. It is just our culture; we are different. Although I think with the crisis, this side of the greek personality is changing as well because the crisis has taught us not to trake things for granted.
Are you doing business with this mentality?
Stergiou: The group, I foundet in 2012, Sellas Life Science, and Sellas clinicals is a unique business model in itself. We have the only dedicated clinical trials facility here in Greece. The whole notion started in 2011. I returned from the USA as the vice president of a big pharma company there; as a matter of fact, I returned for two romantic reasons. One reason was because my fiancee, who is my wife now, lived here. The second reason was: I really wanted to do something good for Greece. So we went into the health care sector, where we do clinical research and development.
We work on behalf of pharmaceutical companies such as Janssen, Cilag, Amgen and others, as well as for medium size companies. When they want to launch a product and clinical research has to be performed, it has to be tested in humans. We basically have this niche market in Greece, being the only dedicated trial facility. We provide patients access to innovative and unique treatment options in severe and debilitating diseases where they would have otherwise no access to—under strict EU-guidelines. So new drugs become available to patients in need.
In contrast, last year the pharmaceutical industry spent €80 million in Greece on research and development. We wish that number to increase by 500% by the year 2017. This would be a €400 million market. So Sellas is a service provider. In 2011 we started with a staff of two. Today we are a staff of about 30 people, including full-time and part-time personnel as well as consultants. We are also a company that not only does work for other clients; we do our own research and development.