Empowering health startups and predicting the future

Bayer Global Head of Innovation, Eugene Borukhovich, shares his thoughts

In an interview with Eugene Borukhovich, Bayer’s Global Head Digital Health, he dispels the industry’s misunderstanding about corporations and startups working together.

How did you get into the pharmaceutical industry?

I was born as a geek and technologist and had an opportunity to join a Pharmacy Benefit Manager in the United States many years ago, realizing I could apply my tech skills to help heal people. I am a serial intra- and entrepreneur, and about 1.5 years ago joined Bayer. And for the first time, I am now working directly inside the Life Science industry.

Why is the mission and work of Startup Health important to you?

The StartUp Health team has been on an amazing journey. Not only the concept, but more importantly the execution, of creating a global Health Transformer army focused on key moonshots to improve our society. The system is to be admired!

Tell us about Bayer’s Grants4Apps program.

Grants4Apps was born five years ago by visionary Jesus del Valle Rosales, and literally at the time was grants for apps. The team has been run like a startup itself, continuously pivoting and innovating with introductions of programs to connect the world to Bayer and Bayer to the world. The core of the program is 100-day accelerator in Berlin, but we have had amazing uptake of the different models across the world within Bayer. Our stem4health meetups are in over 30 countries and growing every week; our co-working spaces are popping up from Moscow to Milan; and our accelerator program expanded to Shanghai as well.

What is Dealmaker?

We recently introduced Dealmaker for more mature startups. It is very transaction oriented, to solve the industry’s challenges. With over 800 applications, Dealmaker turned into a one-day event where we picked the top 40 startups and, together with our challenge owners, legal, procurement and other key experts, we were able to sign letters of intent for a percentage of those companies THAT DAY! We are replicating this model now in the United States, focused on selfcare as the Grants4Apps Generator—so stay tuned for more news at the StartUp Health Festival. This is the passion and dedication of our #G4A Global family of innovators.

What has surprised you about the combination between the startup corporate culture and creativity and your Bayer internal corporate culture and creativity?

I learned there are intra- and entrepreneurs all around the company, and yes, there is a process in large organizations, but the level of creativity is really astounding. There is also a misunderstanding in the industry that corporates and startups are like David and Goliath. I don’t find that's the case; we need each other and we can learn different ways from each other. We learn how to really think on our feet, pivot and change the hypothesis, and the startups learn from us how to approach the healthcare system regulations and pure scaling.

“Adopting the startup approach inside and outside will help large organizations transform.”


Bayer’s Global Head Digital Health

One thing to realize is that a corporation will never become a startup purely due to the definition of a corporation: executing on existing and known business model. Adopting the startup approach inside and outside will help large organizations transform and potentially find new business models over time.

Where do you see health innovation in the next five years?

A few predictions:

  1. Biotech and digi-tech truly become one in 5+ years.

  2. We will continue innovating as an industry, helping humans with novel treatments inside our bodies.

  3. We will continue to improve and create better user interfaces, optimizing core process in HealthIT & HealthTech.

  4. Digital Health will evolve mostly towards behavior modification, with digital therapeutics leading the way with evidence-based outcomes.

What are you most passionate about outside of work?

First of all, I don’t think of work as work. It is all just life, and so I enjoy connecting with people, finding and connecting to brilliant people around the world, mentoring where I can and reverse-mentoring. So I spend a lot of time with people who get stuff done to change our health care system. If you had to pin me down, I enjoy writing, hot yoga and meditation!

What is the best advice you’ve received?

While I am a very impatient person, an old mentor told me a joke about a young bull and an old bull, which is probably not appropriate here, but the key message is "Why run when you can just walk?” To expand on that: Most people love to innovate but hate change. If one wants change to happen, change management and bringing people along for the journey simply takes time, so patience is key!