Call it what you will – a near-death experience, a revelation, an awakening. But when you talk with Alain Bindels, you’ll find a man changed by having had Covid-19, yet the experience has given him insights too.
“It was a very tough moment in my life,” Alain Bindels says. “I really felt helpless in that moment and realised how fragile life is. I mean, it was really two weeks of not knowing what the outcome would be. Like, will I get better, will I be able to see my family again?”
He did recover. But Bindels, Head of Innovation Facilitation & Digitalisation at Roche, says he’s not the same man he was before having the disease. After 15 days on his back, a fever as high as 41.1 degrees and losing 10% of oxygen in his blood, he stumbled out of bed with one word ever-present in his mind: solidarity.
Somehow, after Covid-19, he saw connections he’d missed before, and realised the importance of sustainability and our responsibility as a society, a community and at an individual level. He says he understood that the future – both personally and professionally – hinges on partnerships. “I think the only way to go forward after Covid-19 is through collaboration and helping each other,” he says. “To be honest, before I was not focused so much on sustainability or on sustainable development goals. But through this experience I realised the importance of solidarity, sustainability and building ecosystems to make change happen.”
The disease not only transformed Bindels, it also transformed the annual Innovation Summit he organises. As he watched the necessity-driven innovation and agility spurred by the pandemic, he also recognised an opportunity to harness solidarity around the globe, and unite innovators across pharma, governments, academia, patients, start-ups and non-profits to work together to deliver solutions that matter for patients. He commented, “My wish for the future is that we have built this ecosystem with partnerships of start-ups, universities, experts, private companies, even NGOs, and we have the patient included really in the middle of all of that. So, the focus is how can we bring those worlds together into a functioning ecosystem that’s centered around patient needs?”
Life is fragile
When asked what surprised him most about his experience as a Covid-19 patient, Bindels says it’s the fragility of life, and the connections that his vulnerability allowed him to see. He summarises, “We all are part of a big community in a big world, and we have to take care of each other,” he says. “I think life is fragile, societies are fragile, and if we really want to create a positive future, a sustainable future for everybody, we need to rethink how we are working as a society, as a community and also on a personal level.”
From a personal blog published June 2020. Read more about Bindels’ experience in his Voices blog:Something in me changed.