Sanofi CEO: Think small in Big Pharma

While Sanofi-Aventis CEO Chris Viehbacher (photo) was in Seattle for the Pacific Health Summit--where he touted Sanofi's efforts in emerging markets--a business pub collared him for a Q&A. He talked H1N1 flu, tuberculosis, biotech and targeted meds. Here are some highlights from Xconomy.

  • "You're getting into a greater subcategorization of disease. You might say there's not a lot of unmet need in cardiovascular disease. ... [T]here's not unmet need in lowering LDL cholesterol, but there's probably still unmet need in raising HDL. So you have to look much more closely. ... The big one-size-fits-all medicine is a thing of the past."

  • The traditional, integrated pharma model is passé, he said. Sure, Big Pharma is still quite good at commercialization of meds, dealing with regulators, etc. Now, drugmakers need to be close to biotechs and academia to "capture some of that innovative genius." He dismissed the break-up-R&D-into-small-units strategy. Biotechs have entirely different cultures and working environments. "Just because you have the same size as a team, that's the same size of a biotech, doesn't mean you within pharma are like a biotech," he said.

  • Growing in emerging markets requires different strategies that aren't so reliant on patent protection, he points out. Drugmakers need a business model that allows them to be profitable in those markets, without the blockbuster-patent cycle. In the past, "We started with a medicine and looked for customers," typically the wealthiest customers. "Now, what we're starting to do is say ‘let's start with patients' and say ‘what are their healthcare issues on a market-by-market basis?' Where can we find a business opportunity... It's a much more patient-oriented, and customer-oriented approach than what we've had in the past."

Straight from the horse's mouth. It's a lengthy interview, so check out the full article for details.

- read the piece in Xconomy