Democratizing healthcare: How MSc Strat graduate Manel Chikh is improving the lives of patients all over the world
Serial entrepreneur Manel Chikh has dedicated the last 20+ years to improving the lives of oncology and chronic disease patients worldwide, revolutionizing the healthcare industry in a myriad of ways. She’s the third alumnus we’re celebrating as part of the 30 years of MSc Strategic Management celebration, and the first of the 2000s, graduating in 2003.
A three-time entrepreneur, teacher, speaker, and consultant within healthcare, Manel is a leading international figurehead in the industry. Kickstarting her entrepreneurial life with Zaphyr Pharmaceuticals back in 2013 – a company making highly-specialized, high-quality medicine available to patients with cancer and rare and chronic diseases in the MENA region – she went on to teach, become an executive member of several boards, found healthcare consultancy company Curogen and finally, Bodyo: a service offering a unique set of tools to monitor health and prevent serious illnesses.
From pharmacist to business leader
Manel has always been passionate about healthcare, graduating from Université Paris Sud with a Ph.D. in Pharmacy in 2003. “After getting my doctorate degree, I wanted to learn management. My goal was to shape the world of pharma and for that, I needed to understand business within a diversified community with several backgrounds”, she says. “I wanted to learn how to think strategically, raise capital, and the HEC Paris MSc Strategic Management seemed like the best course to acquire these skills.”
“HEC taught me how to identify a problem and handle it, whatever the problem is.”
Master’s degree in hand, she began her career in sales roles for Astra Zeneca, specializing in oncology products. “I was thrown in at the deep end very early on and quickly moved from the 20th role in the team to the 5th”.
Continuing her passion for and expertise in oncology, after three years, she joined Amgen as a Brand Manager in the Oncology and Haematology department. It didn’t take long before she started moving up the ranks, climbing from Senior Marketing Manager to Group Line Manager, and eventually becoming the European Marketing Lead. “I learnt a lot. I oversaw a portfolio worth around €300 million, which was a great experience before the next big step in my career”, she tells.
Bringing high-quality healthcare to the MENA region
After eight years at Amgen, it was time for Manel to create her own legacy. “Sadly, many members of my family living in the MENA region were diagnosed with cancer”, she remembers. “It was my first personal exposure to healthcare in the region, and the shortage of good-quality generic medication was very apparent. I felt passionate that I needed to try to improve the situation, so I raised the capital to launch my own business.”
And so, in 2013, Zaphyr Pharmaceuticals was born. Based in Switzerland, Manel and her team commercialize highly-specialized medicine in the Middle East and African region (MEA) to ensure patients suffering from chronic diseases, cancer and rare diseases are treated with the best available products at an affordable price. “Too often, people look at the price of medication more than the quality, which creates intense price competition and therefore causes the quality to decrease. For us, it’s about quality at the best affordable price”, she affirms.
“My goal is to make high-quality healthcare available to everybody.”
An influential leader in the wider healthcare space
Determined to continue and expand her positive impact on healthcare, Manel joined the University of Pharmacy Paris XI as a visiting professor of Pharmacy, and launched the entrepreneurship and global healthcare class within the Master Marketing Pharmaceutique et des Technologies de Santé. A speaker as well as teacher, she attends several congresses and events such as The annual CPhi – the world’s most important pharmaceutical industry conference – as well as The Economist’s War on Cancer annual summit.
After creating Curogen, a consultancy company helping small and medium-size healthcare businesses to expand into the MEA markets, she joined Bodyo as co-founder and Chief Strategic Officer in 2020. With the aim to unleash the power of preventive medicine through disruptive tools and innovative solutions, the service provides communities with high-tech healthcare tools to detect early signs of illness to lead a healthier tomorrow.
“The most effective treatment for illnesses is prevention”, explains Manel. “To do this, people need easy access to screening, which requires high-quality AI tools to do well. We guide our users from screening to actually changing their habits, with the likes of prevention programs and guidance on the usefulness of connected objects.”
Bodyo has already been widely recognized in the e-healthcare space, as well as within high-tech and AI, receiving worldwide media coverage and many innovation awards and endorsements, from the likes of Microsoft and Bayer to name just a few.