Innovation means putting patients first and being first for patients: A Q&A with Boehringer Ingelheim

Apr 25, 2023

An interview with Michel Pairet, Member of the Board of Managing Directors, Boehringer Ingelheim with responsibility for the Innovation Unit.

Want to learn more about Boehringer Ingelheim’s approach to collaboration and innovation? Register here for the Boehringer Ingelheim R&D Day 2023 | Transforming Science on May 9th.

What is Boehringer Ingelheim’s approach to innovation?

Our purpose is to drive innovation, create value in areas of unmet medical need and engage with communities and society to change lives for the better. Innovation at Boehringer Ingelheim is, and always has been about patients: putting patients first and being first for patients. Patients inspire us in our mission to create breakthrough therapies that change lives. This means, focusing on those areas of medicine where we can do the most good, and improving our understanding of science and disease so we develop better treatments. Our commitment to this purpose has resulted in many examples of innovation that have already changed the lives of millions of patients around the world and every day, our scientists embark on new journeys of discovery that will help today’s children face a healthier future.

All this is only possible with the dedication and persistence of our remarkable team. Their passion for science and for patients, alongside the talents of our community of external partners, produces the spark to make innovation happen.  

Why is Boehringer Ingelheim focused on supporting the Massachusetts life sciences ecosystem?

We firmly believe that championing new ideas and new science by supporting life-science innovation communities around the world is critical if we are to bring new medicines to patients faster.  In Cambridge, we are at the heart of one of the largest life-science ecosystems globally and are surrounded by the brightest scientific minds. Building connections with colleagues in communities like this is the key to new knowledge and leveraging this wealth of expertise brings critical diversity to innovation.

We’ve been a supporter of this community for many years. The US arm of our Venture Fund is based here, along with members of our Research Beyond Borders and Business Development and Licensing  teams. We also launched our Grass Roots Innovation program in Boston in 2015 with the aim of supporting early-stage companies through mentoring, networking and educational initiatives. We know that if we work together, we can, as a life-science community, learn more, do more and achieve more. Without doubt, this is our common goal.

Which therapeutic or R&D areas are Boehringer Ingelheim focused on? How do you view collaborations in these areas?

Our research into new medicines is focused on those areas of science with significant unmet patient need and where we continue to innovate and lead the science. We are concentrating our research efforts and investment in, cardio-renal-metabolic diseases, central nervous system diseases, immunology and respiratory diseases, oncology and cancer immunology and retinal health. We are creating synergies by focusing expertise and resources on common pathophysiological mechanisms such as immune modulation and fibrosis, that contribute to multiple diseases. And our Research Beyond Borders team explores new and disruptive technologies across the entire research spectrum to anticipate future trends that complement our research strategy. Long-term collaborations with academic institutions, public research institutions, biotech companies and pharmaceutical companies are an integral part of our R&D work.

In the last few months, we’ve been excited to sign three collaborations with Massachusetts-based partners. Ribon Therapeutics, Foundation Medicine and most recently Covant Therapeutics are now part of our global community of 150 partners where we’re working together to advance science and give new hope to patients. 

What does the future look like for Boehringer Ingelheim? What are you most excited about in the next year, five years, 10 years?

We’re very excited about the future and the opportunities for new and advanced treatments that our pipeline can deliver. In 2022 we received one Breakthrough Designation, three Fast Track Designations and two Orphan Drug designations from the FDA. We expect around 20 regulatory approvals over the next seven years. This means more opportunities to be first for those many millions of patients who are waiting for life-saving and life-improving treatments.

Last year, we reached 30 million patients with our medicines – more patients than ever before. Every single one of those patients inspires us and motivates us to do more. But we also know that for every patient we serve there are many more with diseases that have no or limited treatment options.  It is our responsibility and privilege to focus on those areas of unmet need to ensure no patient is left behind as we, and our partners, pursue our search for the next breakthrough. 


Michel Pairet is a member of Boehringer Ingelheim’s Board of Managing Directors, as well as the Head of the Innovation Unit, which covers the full range of discovery, research, non-clinical development, translational medicine, business development, and patents functions as well as the company’s corporate venture fund activities. During his extensive scientific career with Boehringer Ingelheim, he has been fortunate to see the positive impact that transformational science can have on people with conditions such as diabetes, congestive heart failure and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

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