Interview: Serge Weinberg, Sanofi

March 2, 2015 ctheodoropulos

Ahead of BIO-Europe Spring® 2015 in Paris we spoke to Serge Weinberg, Chairman of the Board of Directors and Interim CEO of Sanofi, to learn about the company’s partnering strategy and priorities, and how Sanofi is engaging with innovation across all stages of development.

Serge Weinberg, Chairman of the Board of Directors and Interim CEO of Sanofi

Serge Weinberg, Chairman of the Board of Directors and Interim CEO of Sanofi

partneringNEWS (pN): What is your priority for partnering?

Serge Weinberg (SW): Sanofi is an innovation-driven company; partnerships are an essential pillar of our strategy. We continuously look to strengthen and expand our product portfolio by collaboratively developing new innovative medicines and vaccines. Our goal is to leverage capabilities, expertise and resources across the healthcare ecosystem to better and more efficiently address patients’ needs.

Our focus includes our existing franchises such as diabetes, oncology, cardiovascular health, human vaccines, rare diseases, and animal health, as well as emerging franchises built around development assets with superior efficacy/safety profiles such as immune-mediated diseases and dyslipidemia. We also continuously look at expanding into new areas through partnerships and collaborations with companies leveraging breakthrough science and technologies to develop transformative therapies.

pN: What are other changes you see to partnering in life sciences?

As an industry trend, we see more and more companies joining forces to enhance and accelerate innovation in the field of life sciences. The combination of venture investors and pharma companies, risk sharing platforms with academic centers and public institutions is now becoming a model for the industry, a model that may allow critical changes in research and development as well as the evaluation and submission process of new medicines and vaccines to regulatory bodies.

We, at Sanofi, have developed an innovative and flexible approach with various partnership models aimed at establishing win-win collaborations. Examples of such approaches include our Sunrise initiative, the Sanofi-Genzyme BioVentures (SGBV), and our active engagement and leadership in various public-private partnerships including the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) .

Sunrise is a Sanofi initiative that connects world-class science and emerging platforms with committed resources and expert capabilities from Sanofi via company co-creation. Our aim is to translate basic scientific discoveries from outstanding scientists and clinicians into new medicines and treatment paradigms for patients in need. Recent examples of Sunrise initiatives include WarpDrive Bio, Portal Instruments, and MyoKardia, three highly innovative companies exploiting breakthrough science to transform patient care.

Sanofi Genzyme BioVentures is Sanofi’s venture capital arm. SGBV is looking to invest in start-up companies with promising and innovative technologies that may help nurture Sanofi’s product pipeline. Today, SGBV has assembled a portfolio of 13 direct equity investments in a variety of promising innovative life science companies.

We see also more and more diversification through strategic investments but also strategic partnerships to support a patient-centric and integrated care approach. In India, Sanofi recently announced its plan to invest in the Apollo Sugar Clinics chain project to support 26 facilities throughout the country. The clinics’ company is a subsidiary of India’s Apollo Hospitals. These clinics are intended to provide high-quality integrated care for diabetics in a country that counts 65 million of them and another 77 million pre-diabetic.

pN: How is Sanofi differentiated against large pharma peers as a preferred partner to biotech companies? Many large pharma are centralizing the in-sourcing of innovation by creating centers of excellence in key technology hubs worldwide, like Boston. Is Sanofi taking a similar approach to identifying new technologies and assets?

SW: We are a company that places patients and innovation at the forefront of what we do. We are agnostic about the source of that innovation, be it inside or outside of our walls, and so we encourage any potential partner to reach out to us in order to leverage our resources and scientific leadership so that together we can make a difference and accelerate science to the benefit of humankind. We believe in a flexible approach to partnering and that there is no one size that fits all. As such, we are highly committed to external innovation allowing our partners to develop and prosper as illustrated by our partnerships with Regeneron, Alnylam and Voyager. We have completed over 100 transactions in the past three years.

The development of our R&D hubs is not necessarily a differentiator but more of a critical asset in the way we open ourselves to potential partners—across Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific. Our hubs are here to facilitate connections and knowledge sharing linking our 17,000 scientists worldwide, as well as our global and local partners in order to accelerate the translation of our findings from the laboratory to the clinic, and ultimately to the patients.

pN: What are the core value drivers of Sanofi today, and how might they change over the next five years?

SW: As we look ahead, we are in a unique position: We anticipate launching six new drugs in 2015 with the potential to further launch one new medicine or vaccine every six months thereafter, totaling 18 potential launches by 2020. Our pipeline has never been so robust, and we continue to fuel the strong momentum by accelerating our early stage pipeline and expanding our open innovation model.

Our core value drivers are therefore flawless execution and relentless focus on innovation. The healthcare environment continues to rapidly change necessitating anticipation and adaptability. Tomorrow more than today we will need to deliver strong innovations with the agility that only a networked model of innovation fueled by deep partnerships can provide. Reinforcing and expanding our partnerships will therefore enable us to strengthen our leadership.

pN: You recently announced a collaboration with Boehringer Ingelheim for manufacturing biologics. What does this tell us about your approach?”

Sanofi and Boehringer Ingelheim have entered into a manufacturing alliance to produce therapeutics monoclonal antibodies. We have an outstanding pipeline in biologics which has been built both on our own capabilities and capacities as well as our partnering resources. In biologics the process is the product, therefore development, launch and manufacturing are strategic key components for success.

PN: What types of technologies get Sanofi excited, and do they have to be at a certain stage of development?

SW: We are open to every single opportunity across all stages of development, from early discovery to commercialization. We look at products, at new and innovative technologies as well as different therapeutic approaches.

We are open to collaborations and partnerships with every organization that shares our pioneering approach to new science and technology: academic centers, hospitals, biotechnology companies, research centers, pharmaceutical companies and many others.

pN: You are sponsoring BIO-Europe Spring in Paris this March. This is the first time a life science event of this caliber and scale has been held in Paris. Tell us about the region and opportunities in Paris for international life science partners.

SW:  Paris has a unique life sciences ecosystem. Paris region has a great concentration of world renowned research centers, hospitals, universities and business schools, and also HQs in life sciences.

This excellence relates to many fields of expertise: vaccines and infectious diseases at the Pasteur Institute, oncology at the Curie Institute and Gustave Roussy, neurology at the Brain & Spine Institute, vision at the Vision Institute or genomics at the Genopole and genetic disease at the Imagine Institute. Medicen, a cluster for innovative therapies and advanced technologies in healthcare, has a key role in this ecosystem. Medicen brings together large and small firms, research laboratories and educational establishments, all working to develop synergies and cooperative efforts.

All these actors allow life sciences companies, such as Sanofi, to be in constant innovation mode and search for scientific breakthroughs. Paris is also a strategic launch pad to the EMEA markets and institutions in Europe.

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