Sanofi, Google team up in search of new treatments, marketing solutions

A few months ago, Sanofi tapped its chief medical officer Ameet Nathwani, M.D., to spearhead a digital revolution at the company. And he’s bringing in the big guns to help.

The French drugmaker has joined forces with Google to create a new virtual innovation lab, where the partners will marry Google’s technology and analytics expertise with Sanofi’s data to bring deeper understanding of diseases and patients’ experience, they said Tuesday.

The lab will work on both the scientific and commercial sides in search of both more personalized approaches to treatment and digital technologies that can help improve outcomes. “We aspire to give people more control over their health and accelerate the discovery of new therapies,” Nathwani said in a statement.

And that’s not all. Sanofi will also use Google’s digital prowess to improve its own operations and infrastructure. For one, the pair will deploy artificial intelligence to help forecast sales and optimize marketing and supply chain activities.

“Using AI will take into account real-time information as well as geographic, logistic and manufacturing constraints to help the accuracy of these complex activities,” the companies said.

Sanofi will also be moving some of its existing business to the Google Cloud platform, a transition it says will cut costs.

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Partnering with tech players to improve and develop products and implementing digital solutions within the company were two of Sanofi’s priorities when it bestowed the Chief Digital Officer title on Nathwani in February.

“My main goals have really been trying to take an integrated strategy and put that together for us as a company,” he said in a recent interview at the BIO International Convention in Philadelphia.

That involves partnering to come up with technologies that can accompany Sanofi’s drugs, create new digital therapeutics and merge AI, telehealth, wearables and more into “tech-enabled virtual healthcare.” But it also involves weaving tech into Sanofi at every level and improving the company’s “digital literacy,” whether it’s digitizing the supply chain or using the latest insights in customer engagement.

“I have a fundamental role to make sure the company becomes much more efficient, data-driven and digitized across all of the things we do," Nathwani said. "… Those things have to happen anyway, but the real kind of focus for me is how do we make sure that we actually drive a new way that our business may transform,” Nathwani said.

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This isn’t Sanofi’s first time teaming up with the Google universe. Back in 2016, the pharma giant struck up joint venture Onduo—a virtual diabetes clinic—with Verily, the life sciences company owned by Google parent Alphabet.

“I’m really excited about some of the data coming out of Onduo,” Nathwani said. “It just shows that we can, with technology, really take patients who are hard to manage and improve their lives and potentially improve their outcomes.”