Address by Werner Baumann
Breakthrough Innovation Forum
Chairman of the Board of Management
It’s my great pleasure to welcome you to our Breakthrough Innovation Forum. We are very excited to guide you through the next two hours. We have put together what we believe is an exciting agenda. And of course, we look forward to your questions and feedback.
This event comes at an extraordinary time. For five weeks and one day now, we have been shocked to witness a horrifying war in the heart of Europe. In all honesty, we asked ourselves whether we should cancel today’s event. But ultimately, we decided to go ahead.
In these days, we at Bayer are stepping up our efforts to do what we can to help and support the people in need – with our humanitarian aid and the supply of essential health and nutrition products. We are living up to this responsibility and will continue do so.
On the other hand, we need to continue to advance our long-term plans to help address some of the major challenges that we see in the world: Whether it’s the impact of climate change on food production, or the persistence of hard-to-treat diseases. Breakthrough innovation is the key needed to help unlock bold solutions.
The terrible war in Ukraine already took many lives. On top, it also accelerates a food crisis that was already growing worse by the day. The urgency to act is quite clear. Like so often in the history of health and agriculture, science will show the way.
The good news is brilliant minds are already dedicating their skills and their passion to big questions like how to feed a growing population and create healthier lives while respecting the boundaries of our planet.
Overall, the scientific progress we have seen in recent years and the promise of new tools and technologies is remarkable. These innovations have the true potential to transform our thinking, change paradigms and help overcome some of our most pressing societal challenges.
Gene editing is just one of those groundbreaking new technologies. In 2020 the Nobel Prize for chemistry was awarded to Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier as the discoverers of the tool CRISPR/Cas. In her Nobel lecture, Doudna talked about the potential of gene editing. She mentioned “new therapies, drug targets and diagnostics”. She also mentioned “nutritious, disease-resistant and climate-tolerant crops”. Her summary was simply, and I quote: “The possibilities are endless”.
This is the spirit that guides today’s Breakthrough Innovation Forum. We want to tell you about incredible scientific progress and the amazing opportunities that come with it – for us as a society and for us as a life science company.
After our pipeline updates earlier this year, today it's about the bigger picture, the long-term perspective, as we advance towards our vision of health for all and hunger for none. In other words: Today it is all about tomorrow.
When our company was founded in 1863, there was about one billion people on earth. As we speak, the world population continues to grow rapidly. Sometime in 2022, we will likely welcome the 8 billionth human to this planet.
So far, thanks to the work of earlier disruptive innovators, we have always met the challenges of a growing population:
- The invention of nitrogen fixation by Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch paved the way for artificial fertilizer, which still is the bedrock of the world’s food production.
- Norman Borlaug developed shorter and disease-resistant wheat varieties which led to higher yields and saved over a billion people from starvation.
- Alexander Fleming changed the world of modern medicine by discovering penicillin and opening the age of antibiotics. It has saved, and is still saving, the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world.
- The same is true for the groundbreaking research of Frederic Banting, who discovered insulin and its therapeutic potential.
These heroes have made continued life on earth possible. All of us stand on the shoulders of these and other breakthrough innovators.
Tomorrow’s challenges are even greater and a new era of breakthrough innovation is urgently needed. We are entering a new era of scientific opportunities – and that is exactly what we want to talk about today. We would like to take you on a journey to imagine what a world with 10 billion people could look like – and what possibilities science is already revealing today.
For a research-based company like Bayer, this time is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help changing the world for better. The confluence of biology, chemistry, and data sciences provides the opportunity to solve some of the greatest challenges. But this possibility only exists for companies and scientists who dare to ask, “What if?”
What if we could produce more food on less land while using fewer natural resources? What if diseases like Parkinson’s or cancer weren’t diseases we treated, but cured? What if underserved communities could take care of their personal health? While these challenges seem to be very different in nature, the means to overcome them could be surprisingly similar. It all comes down to biology, the cell and gene level as the bedrock of all life on earth.
This is true for global food systems as we enable farmers, small and large, to adapt to a rapidly changing climate. This is true for faster drug discovery to help patients. This is true for our self-care division, where we will increasingly be able to understand individuals’ cellular make-up. And this is true for our transformation to a carbon-neutral society.
For all those fundamental questions, it is obvious that no one company, no single country or research institute can do it alone. It takes a village of brilliant minds, an entire ecosystem of scientific expertise and entrepreneurial spirit – and that is exactly what we are building as a leading life science company around the globe. In 2015, we have set up our impact investment arm Leaps by Bayer – doing venture capital investment with the clear purpose of addressing humanity’s biggest challenges in health and agriculture. Today, we are thrilled to announce that we will step up our investment into Leaps and will invest another 1.3 billion euros over the course of the next three years.
At Bayer, we are extremely excited about the opportunities that are ahead of us. And I invite you to see, feel and maybe even share that excitement in the course of today.
Thank you very much! Enjoy the Breakthrough Innovation Forum!
Take care and good bye!
This release may contain forward-looking statements based on current assumptions and forecasts made by Bayer management. Various known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors could lead to material differences between the actual future results, financial situation, development or performance of the company and the estimates given here. These factors include those discussed in Bayer’s public reports which are available on the Bayer website at www.bayer.com. The company assumes no liability whatsoever to update these forward-looking statements or to conform them to future events or developments.