Sanofi CEO Hudson backs away from struggling diabetes, cardiovascular areas in strategy unveiling

Sanofi
Sanofi announced big changes Monday evening ahead of an investor event. (Sanofi)

That didn’t take long. Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson has only been at the reins for a couple months, but on Tuesday, he unveiled a major shakeup.  

Going forward, the company plans to prioritize its strongest-growing products, like immunology med Dupixent and vaccines, and exit businesses where it’s not performing as well. Sanofi said it believes Dupixent can generate more than €10 billion at peak, and that vaccines can deliver strong growth figures through 2025. And aside from those products, it's focusing on six "potentially transformative" pipeline therapies in hemophilia, RSV, cancer and more.

Along with the moves, Sanofi said it’s exiting R&D in diabetes and cardiovascular groups, where the company has a rich history. The drugmaker won’t pursue a launch of efpeglenatide, a GLP-1 injection for Type 2 diabetes. 

Further, the company will be “right-sizing” its teams for PCSK9 med Praluent and immunology drug Kevzara, two drugs launched under a partnership with Regeneron that haven’t met early commercial expectations. By deprioritizing certain businesses, implementing "smart spending" initiatives and bolstering manufacturing efficiency, Sanofi aims to save €2 billion by 2022.

Under Hudson, the company will reorganize around three business units—specialty care, vaccines and general medicines—and operate consumer healthcare as a “standalone business unit” with its own R&D and manufacturing. The CEO explained that the goal with the consumer healthcare group is to "unlock value and entrepreneurial energy."

"We believe the new standalone structure, coupled with plans to accelerate the over-the-counter switches for Cialis and Tamiflu, will position the business well to accomplish this ambition," he added.

In a note to clients, Bernstein analyst Wimal Kapadia wrote that the company is "saying all the right things" and that the initial reveal is a "positive step." Still, the analyst isn't yet convinced about the company's pipeline opportunities.

As far as capital spending, Sanofi plans to place an emphasis in its own businesses, M&A and business development, growing the dividend and share buybacks in that order. The company says it could raise money by selling older assets and selling its stake in Regeneron after a share lockup expires.

RELATED: Sanofi to ax 466 jobs, step up focus on cancer, gene therapy R&D  

The moves likely won’t come as a complete surprise to market watchers, who have witnessed the company’s diabetes and cardiovascular units struggle from years of pricing pressure, leading to layoffs and more. Last month, reports surfaced that Sanofi was considering a consumer healthcare spinoff, and a spokesperson confirmed that the company is conducting a review of all business units.

The drugmaker has also placed more emphasis on rare diseases lately. Sanofi’s former CEO Olivier Brandicourt inked two M&A deals last year aimed at bolstering the company’s pipeline and offerings in certain rare diseases.

At the start of 2018, Brandicourt bought hemophilia-focused Bioverativ and nanobody biotech Ablynx. Hudson continued the M&A trend Monday with a $2.5 billion purchase of cancer biotech Synthorx.  

Hudson joined Sanofi at the start of September after previously serving as Novartis’ pharmaceuticals president.  

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