New Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson embarks on fact-finding journey. What's his next move?

New Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson started on the job this week. (Sanofi)

Sanofi's new CEO is on the job.

Paul Hudson took the French drugmaker's helm from Olivier Brandicourt Monday, and he's setting out on a journey to meet “as many people in our great organization as I possibly can” in the weeks to come, he said in a video sent to reporters. 

Hudson knows he has far more to do than meet-and-greet, though. He's joining Sanofi at an important time, as the company works to make the most of recent buyouts and extend its pivot away from primary care.

He's joining on an upswing, at least: After sales dropped in 2018, Sanofi gained new ground in the first half of 2019 and grew second-quarter sales 4.1% year over year at constant exchange rates. That's partly in thanks to rare disease unit Genzyme, which Sanofi bought under ex-CEO Chris Viehbacher and Brandicourt beefed up with the purchases of Ablynx and Bioverativ.

As CEO, Brandicourt led efforts to cut costs—putting the company on a more solid footing for earnings growth under Hudson—and focus the drugmaker around five business units.

Even better for Hudson, Bernstein analysts ushered him into office by picking up coverage of the company and making it their top pharma pick. Sanofi offers margin upside, the analysts said, pegging its immunology med Dupixent as a key growth driver.

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That drug is now the cornerstone of Sanofi's critical partnership with Regeneron, which officially hit its stride in Q2 by posting its first ever quarterly profit. Dupixent⁠—approved to treat atopic dermatitis, asthma and, most recently, nasal polyps⁠—is racing toward the blockbuster barrier. It put up $931 million in global sales in the first half, while fellow Regeneron-partnered meds Praluent pulled in $138 million and Kevzara generated $92 million.

Hudson also aims to tap into “magic” at Sanofi by using digital technologies in R&D and marketing, the CEO told Stat. It's a natural move for Hudson, who homed in on digital at Novartis; he told FiercePharma early this year the company used artificial intelligence to help its sales reps in their meetings with doctors, among other things. 

RELATED: Headed for the exit: Sanofi CEO Brandicourt to retire, Novartis' Hudson steps in 

Bernstein figures Sanofi's consumer health, vaccines and emerging markets groups will also drive sales; already, in the second quarter, the latter two pitched in growth along with Genzyme.

“We see no single driver for success, but the ocean is made of many tiny drops of water,” Bernstein analyst Wimal Kapadia wrote. “For Sanofi, it will be all the small things that matter. Make it rain, Mr. Hudson.”

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