Sanofi's new chief digital officer joins wave of executives looking to leverage tech for treatments

Sanofi
Sanofi strikes a first for pharma, combining the role of chief medical officer with chief digital officer. (Sanofi)

It's another digital chief for Big Pharma, this time at Sanofi. The French drugmaker tapped (PDF) chief medical officer Ameet Nathwani, M.D., as its first chief digital officer, combining the two roles inside the company just as it aims to join treatments and technology in the marketplace.

Nathwani will lead Sanofi’s efforts in merging research and development of new medicines with digital technology and big data, a Sanofi spokesperson said via email.

The combined role at Sanofi will focus on two main areas—developing a digital health strategy and capabilities, and using new technologies and advanced analytics to enhance or accelerate some of Sanofi’s core activities across the company, she said.

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“The convergence of digital, analytics and science allows Sanofi to reinvent not just the way we work, but also what type of products we might offer in the future to patients around the world," the spokesperson said. "We believe combining the CMO and CDO roles offers us a unique opportunity to leverage an understanding of life sciences, medicine and patient management combined with technology."

Sanofi’s adoption of a chief digital officer follows other Big Pharma companies' moves in the same direction, although it is unique in combining the role with chief medical officer. In 2018, Pfizer and Merck each named CDOs for the first time, following similar hires by Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline in 2017.

RELATED: Novartis puts AI on the job to help reps say the right things to the right doctors

The shift comes as drugmakers realize that just developing medicines plus using technology isn’t enough in today’s healthcare market. They need to deliver digital lifestyle solutions. And to do that, they need big data and analytics integration.

Jamie Peck, managing director at Indegene’s new digital agency iON, talked to FiercePharma about the chief digital officer trend in December, and said, “When I started in this business, the person in charge of digital would be in the basement with the mainframes and the chief marketing officer was on the top floor with the cushy carpet. But now digital has moved to the top floor too. The digital and marketing heads now need to work hand-in-hand—and with the rest of the executive team.”

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