Silvia Gold
Argentina
Silvia Gold
  • President, Mundo Sano Foundation; Co-founder, Grupo Insud (Public health; diversified)
Born Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1948. Ph.D., Biochemistry, University of Buenos Aires (1976).
“Having the opportunity to help in public health is something I am very grateful for, because I think it’s everyone’s problem.”

Summary

Dr. Silvia Gold is an Argentine biochemist, the co-founder of Grupo Insud, and the President of the Mundo Sano Foundation, which has campaigned to find solutions to “Neglected Tropical Diseases” (NTDs). To begin her interview, she reflects on how growing up in her family’s pharmacy and working at their laboratory stoked her passion for science. After completing her Ph.D, she moved to Barcelona, Spain with her husband and children, seeking refuge from the Argentine military coup of 1976. She explains how she and her husband, Hugo Sigman, transitioned from their respective careers – hers in biochemistry, and his in psychiatry – to start a business buying and selling active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs). While they were new to trading, they developed the business with her father’s support through a loan, networking opportunities, and mentorship. The couple expanded the company by opening industrial facilities to produce their own APIs and end-products. She recounts how, in their early days, large Western pharmaceutical corporations attempted to intimidate them with patent lawsuits. Having never lost a court case, Dr. Gold emphasizes the importance of fighting back against unjust claims. She then shares how her and Dr. Sigman’s technical expertise helped them gain the trust of clients in new markets, including India and China.

After moving back to Argentina in 1983, Dr. Gold and her husband continued to grow their business, partnering with her brother and diversifying into new industries. Now incorporated under Grupo Insud – an acronym for “innovation, sustainability, and development” with a deliberate, celebratory reference to working “in the South” – their activities grew to include veterinary medicine, forestry, agriculture and cattle ranching, in addition to film production, which was an interest specific to her husband. She reveals how the company’s diversified activities and international standing helped it surmount hyperinflation in Argentina. This set-up has also allowed different family members the opportunity to run separate branches of the conglomerate without much friction. Dr. Gold goes on to discuss the corporation’s organization, as well as her experience with long-distance management between Argentina and Grupo Insud’s pharmaceutical headquarters in Spain. She explains how the company has promoted a culture of inclusion, where all employees feel responsible for the organization’s welfare: “Values [for us] means having good teams with your people and offering them a career – offering them a future [and] making them feel part of the company.” Based on her experience striving toward gender equity in business, Dr. Gold emphasizes that “it’s not enough to have a good heart or a good intention.” Rather, she points to the necessity of implementing policies and measuring progress in order to reach one’s goals, just as Grupo Insud did with the UN Women’s gender equality indicators and protocols. She also conveys her belief that corporate social responsibility should be based in the law, and that the next step businesses should aspire to is solidarity.

Grupo Insud has played an important role in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic by contributing to the AstraZeneca vaccine’s production in Latin America. Dr. Gold explains that the company was ready to produce raw materials at a mass scale because of its interventions in previous public health crises. During the swine flu (H1N1) outbreak of 2009, she was inspired by public-private partnerships in Brazil to collaborate with the Argentine government in tackling vaccine shortages. Determined to increase local production, Grupo Insud developed Sinergium Biotech, which has now become the most important vaccine plant in the region. As the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, Dr. Gold’s company chose to move forward with AstraZeneca because the pharmaceutical company’s agreement with Oxford University prioritized affordable pricing, equitable distribution, and urgent action. Agreeing to produce the vaccine “at risk”– that is to say, still pending FDA approval – she describes her pride in the positive impact made by the vaccine’s rapid production. At the same time, she addresses the ongoing inequity in COVID-19 vaccine distribution, citing the fact that many countries cannot compete financially for access to enough doses.

Dr. Gold then turns to discuss the Mundo Sano (“Healthy World”) Foundation, an NGO that her father established to eradicate Chagas disease in Argentina. She stresses the importance of giving back to society, and of collaborating with governments. The foundation has expanded to leverage public-private partnerships across Africa, Europe, and Latin America, producing translational research and educational campaigns to target the WHO’s 20 NTDs. Dr. Gold clarifies that many of these diseases are both preventable and curable, but become “neglected” by governments or the pharmaceutical industry because they mostly impact marginalized groups of people with little financial or political means. With this in mind, she hopes that “COVID leaves us with lessons of what prevention is” when it comes to maintaining an equitably healthy population.

Reflecting on the progress that the Mundo Sano Foundation has made, Dr. Gold argues that it remains difficult to measure as “impact [is] not the same as cost-effectiveness – though that is part of it.” Reports from groups such as WHO’s PAHO (Pan American Health Organization) have evaluated the foundation’s work very positively, and Dr. Gold continues to contribute towards international agreements on NTDs such as with the Kigali Declaration of 2022. This is the second international political commitment to address the issue following the London Declaration in 2012, at which Dr. Gold’s Mundo Sano Foundation was the only Latin American representative. Through her foundation’s participation in such commitments, Dr. Gold stresses the ongoing need for public-private partnerships to improve the quality and equity of public health systems.

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Dr. Silvia Gold is an Argentine biochemist, the co-founder of Grupo Insud, and the President of the Mundo Sano Foundation, which has campaigned to find solutions to “Neglected Tropical Diseases” (NTDs). To begin her interview, she reflects on how growing up in her family’s pharmacy and working at their laboratory stoked her passion for science. After completing her Ph.D, she moved to Barcelona, Spain with her husband and children, seeking refuge from the Argentine military coup of 1976. She explains how she and her husband, Hugo Sigman, transitioned from their respective careers – hers in biochemistry, and his in psychiatry – to start a business buying and selling active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs). While they were new to trading, they developed the business with her father’s support through a loan, networking opportunities, and mentorship. The couple expanded the company by opening industrial facilities to produce their own APIs and end-products. She recounts how, in their early days, large Western pharmaceutical corporations attempted to intimidate them with patent lawsuits. Having never lost a court case, Dr. Gold emphasizes the importance of fighting back against unjust claims. She then shares how her and Dr. Sigman’s technical expertise helped them gain the trust of clients in new markets, including India and China.

After moving back to Argentina in 1983, Dr. Gold and her husband continued to grow their business, partnering with her brother and diversifying into new industries. Now incorporated under Grupo Insud – an acronym for “innovation, sustainability, and development” with a deliberate, celebratory reference to working “in the South” – their activities grew to include veterinary medicine, forestry, agriculture and cattle ranching, in addition to film production, which was an interest specific to her husband. She reveals how the company’s diversified activities and international standing helped it surmount hyperinflation in Argentina. This set-up has also allowed different family members the opportunity to run separate branches of the conglomerate without much friction. Dr. Gold goes on to discuss the corporation’s organization, as well as her experience with long-distance management between Argentina and Grupo Insud’s pharmaceutical headquarters in Spain. She explains how the company has promoted a culture of inclusion, where all employees feel responsible for the organization’s welfare: “Values [for us] means having good teams with your people and offering them a career – offering them a future [and] making them feel part of the company.” Based on her experience striving toward gender equity in business, Dr. Gold emphasizes that “it’s not enough to have a good heart or a good intention.” Rather, she points to the necessity of implementing policies and measuring progress in order to reach one’s goals, just as Grupo Insud did with the UN Women’s gender equality indicators and protocols. She also conveys her belief that corporate social responsibility should be based in the law, and that the next step businesses should aspire to is solidarity.

Grupo Insud has played an important role in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic by contributing to the AstraZeneca vaccine’s production in Latin America. Dr. Gold explains that the company was ready to produce raw materials at a mass scale because of its interventions in previous public health crises. During the swine flu (H1N1) outbreak of 2009, she was inspired by public-private partnerships in Brazil to collaborate with the Argentine government in tackling vaccine shortages. Determined to increase local production, Grupo Insud developed Sinergium Biotech, which has now become the most important vaccine plant in the region. As the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, Dr. Gold’s company chose to move forward with AstraZeneca because the pharmaceutical company’s agreement with Oxford University prioritized affordable pricing, equitable distribution, and urgent action. Agreeing to produce the vaccine “at risk”– that is to say, still pending FDA approval – she describes her pride in the positive impact made by the vaccine’s rapid production. At the same time, she addresses the ongoing inequity in COVID-19 vaccine distribution, citing the fact that many countries cannot compete financially for access to enough doses.

Dr. Gold then turns to discuss the Mundo Sano (“Healthy World”) Foundation, an NGO that her father established to eradicate Chagas disease in Argentina. She stresses the importance of giving back to society, and of collaborating with governments. The foundation has expanded to leverage public-private partnerships across Africa, Europe, and Latin America, producing translational research and educational campaigns to target the WHO’s 20 NTDs. Dr. Gold clarifies that many of these diseases are both preventable and curable, but become “neglected” by governments or the pharmaceutical industry because they mostly impact marginalized groups of people with little financial or political means. With this in mind, she hopes that “COVID leaves us with lessons of what prevention is” when it comes to maintaining an equitably healthy population.

Reflecting on the progress that the Mundo Sano Foundation has made, Dr. Gold argues that it remains difficult to measure as “impact [is] not the same as cost-effectiveness – though that is part of it.” Reports from groups such as WHO’s PAHO (Pan American Health Organization) have evaluated the foundation’s work very positively, and Dr. Gold continues to contribute towards international agreements on NTDs such as with the Kigali Declaration of 2022. This is the second international political commitment to address the issue following the London Declaration in 2012, at which Dr. Gold’s Mundo Sano Foundation was the only Latin American representative. Through her foundation’s participation in such commitments, Dr. Gold stresses the ongoing need for public-private partnerships to improve the quality and equity of public health systems.

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Video Clips by Topic

Innovation

Dr. Silvia Gold, President of the Mundo Sano Foundation and co-founder of Grupo Insud, explains how patent expiration is important for innovation, recounting that her company has always won against large Western pharmaceutical companies that have sought legal action based on the global patent system.


Responding to Crises

Dr. Silvia Gold, President of the Mundo Sano Foundation and co-founder of Grupo Insud, outlines her company’s experience with prior public health crises such as the H1N1 outbreak, which allowed them to rapidly license and start producing materials for the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.


Social Impact

Dr. Silvia Gold, President of the Mundo Sano Foundation and co-founder of Grupo Insud, describes her foundation’s pursuit to make meaningful social change by decreasing barriers to treatment for “neglected tropical diseases” (NTDs).


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Additional Resources

Additional Resources

Interview Citation Format

Interview with Silvia Gold, interviewed by Geoffrey Jones in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, 27 April 2022, Creating Emerging Markets project, Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard Business School, https://www.hbs.edu/creating-emerging-markets/Pages/default.aspx.