Sanofi moves deeper into Genzyme operations

After two companies merge, there's plenty of anxiety about how the integration will play out. The Sanofi-Genzyme combo is no exception: Sanofi made some up-front pledges of independence for the Boston-based unit, but would those promises survive the actual closing?

The answer, as usual, is a bit more complicated than yes or no. Genzyme CEO Henri Termeer has departed with his hefty severance package, and Sanofi chief Christopher Viehbacher is serving as Genzyme's CEO during the integration period, to make sure the merger goes smoothly. Eventually, Viehbacher will usher in a leader for the Genzyme unit, which is still slated to operate as a semi-autonomous business.

But, last month Sanofi restructured Genzyme's marketing and sales units, leaving rare diseases, multiple sclerosis and personalized genetic health under the Genzyme banner, but moving Genzyme's oncology, biosurgery and renal businesses into the Sanofi fold. As Viehbacher now tells the Boston Globe, "[W]e said some of those [Genzyme] businesses are highly specialized [with] deep personal interaction with physicians and patients, and there are businesses where essentially you want scale behind them. We felt that the Genzyme brand was most relevant to those businesses having that specialized, individual patient approach."

And now, Sanofi has announced an R&D structure that will coordinate Sanofi and Genzyme programs through an umbrella unit called the Sanofi Boston R&D hub. Genzyme's R&D will operate underneath that. So, another piece of the integration puzzle is in place. But one of the biggest questions--whether and how many job cuts will come--remains to be answered. Viehbacher told the Globe that it's too soon to say how many Genzyme jobs will survive the combo.

"[Y]ou can never answer that question fast enough," Viehbacher said. "Our commitment is to try to come to these integration decisions at a 10,000-person organization across 80 countries in 90 days. Now for most people, they'll still see that as slow. But I can tell you that pretty much sets speed records."

- read the Globe piece