Sanofi will likely cut at Genzyme, but where?

The Sanofi-Aventis/Genzyme guessing game has moved from deal price to job cuts. That some jobs will go is taken as a given; big mergers necessarily lead to cost squeezes.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick was concerned enough to lobby both Sanofi CEO Chris Viehbacher (photo) and Genzyme chief Henri Termeer (photo), who's sticking around for two years to help oversee the integration. He met with the two men yesterday. "I will fight for every job," Patrick told the Boston Herald. "I am always concerned about job losses."

Viehbacher acknowledged that Genzyme won't look exactly the same after Sanofi takes over. But in an interview with the Boston Globe, he tried to balance the likelihood of cost cuts with hints of future investment. "It wouldn't be credible to say there aren't going to be some cost savings along the way," Viehbacher said. "But you want to be careful in terms of risk of disruption. It may be that we reduce in some areas, but that we invest in other areas."

Armchair quarterbacks expect Sanofi to wring cost savings from back-office and administrative functions rather than core operations such as R&D and manufacturing. After all, Genzyme is set to become Sanofi's rare-disease unit, poised to draw on all the Boston-area talent and expertise.

If Sanofi's smart, it will keep not only the scientists and tech specialists, but also the people who've built relationships with the rare-disease patients Genzyme's drugs serve. One of the reasons Genzyme's pricey meds have been so successful is that it hasn't just sold the drugs, it has also aided patients, e.g., helping them file insurance papers and linking them with support groups. "I think a more patient-centered model is important," Viehbacher told the Globe. He'll have plenty of patients and advocates pressuring Sanofi to remember that.

- see the Herald story
- check out the Globe coverage
- see the article from WBUR
- get more from the Globe