The only Portuguese pharmaceutical company to launch innovative medicines in the market
“The future has always been part of our history” is the motto that celebrates BIAL's 95th anniversary. The largest Portuguese pharmaceutical company was established in Porto in 1924, founded by Álvaro Portela. Today, Álvaro Portela’s descendants run the company and its activity is mainly focused on Research & Development (R&D). In addition, BIAL has two innovative medicines marketed worldwide.
Luis Portela, BIAL's Chairman, says that the company's 95th anniversary is “a significant milestone. Very few companies have reached this stage, the celebration of 95 years of activity, namely healthy activity. I honour the memory of my grandfather, Álvaro Portela, who started working at a pharmacy in the city of Porto at the age of 14 and displayed a remarkable talent, work ethic and diligence to a project that became his own, the establishment of BIAL”. Regarding the celebration of this symbolic date, Luís Portela also recalls “all the people who have given their best to BIAL over the years. The company was and is made by people. They are the cornerstone of what we have endeavoured to build, that is, an international innovation company. I believe that this team, together with our cutting-edge product range and the great projects we have been developing, will keep pursuing this development and growth path.”
BIAL’s scope of activity is based on the R&D of new medicines, namely neurosciences, To date, it is the only Portuguese pharmaceutical company with medicinal products of its own research. Eslicarbazepine acetate for the treatment of epilepsy was first launched in 2009. It is now available in several European countries and the US, which represent the first sales market of pharmaceutical products for BIAL. The second medicine produced by BIAL, Opicapone, used in the treatment of Parkinson's disease, was approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in 2016 and is marketed in the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Italy and Portugal. Its entry in other European countries and the USA, China and Japan is forecast for 2020/2021.
With over an average of 15,000 new molecules synthesized, BIAL allocates 20% of its annual budget to R&D, being the Portuguese industrial-based company that most invests in this field. The 2018 EU Industrial RD Investment Scoreboard has ranked BIAL 470th out of 1,000 European companies that invest the most in R&D. It is worth mentioning that there are only 28 companies that have been developing and selling innovative medicines in Europe in the last 10 years.
Currently, BIAL has a team of 964 staff members, 78% of them have university degrees. One hundred and eleven employees work on Research and Development. Forty percent (40%) of this R&D staff hold PhDs and are from nine different nationalities.
Concomitantly, the group has strengthened its international expansion by reinforcing its activity in important European pharmaceutical markets. BIAL currently has branches in nine countries and sells its medicines in over 55 countries, mainly from Europe, Africa and America. In the last 10 years, the weight of sales in international markets has been on the rise, currently representing 70% of its turnover, whereas in 2010, it amounted to 30%.
António Portela, great-grandson of Álvaro Portela and current CEO, highlights the vision of former leaders and of his father, Luís Portela, who “created a company based on three pillars: quality, innovation and internationalization. These pillars not only have been achieved but also remain at the heart of our strategic plan. In recent years, BIAL has had a remarkable progress; we have our own research drugs and are located in different parts of the globe. We are celebrating the past but looking towards the future. We want BIAL to assert itself as an innovation company. This very risky sector requires massive investments and yields results on a considerably long-term basis. But, as in the past, health remains our dream.”
As its 100th anniversary approaches, BIAL's main goal is to be an innovative pharmaceutical company with a global presence, mainly in the most relevant markets - where the US and Asia will have a leading role – aiming to improve the quality of life of people with new therapeutic solutions.