Sanofi-Aventis chops into R&D budget, drops cancer drug

Sanofi-Aventis has been steadily ratcheting down the amount of money it's spending on R&D. In its annual report out this morning, the pharma giant revealed that it had shaved seven percent out of its R&D budget last year as it restructured its pipeline.

After recounting its success advancing new drugs for ovarian cancer and mid-stage vaccine programs, Sanofi--which has recently inked a series of new collaborations with biotech companies like Regeneron and Syntiron--also said that it had decided to drop its program for the cancer drug larotaxel and had terminated six Phase I development projects.

"As of today, the R&D portfolio is comprised of 49 projects in clinical development of which 17 are in Phase III or have been submitted to the health authorities for approval," noted the annual report. "2009 was the first year of implementation of our new strategy," says CEO Chris Viehbacher. "Major steps have already been achieved in strengthening our growth platforms and reinforcing our R&D pipeline while delivering a double-digit EPS growth."

Viehbacher has been outspoken about Sanofi's need to rely more on partnering to identify and capitalize on new drug prospects. The company has also been an active M&A player and has no plans to stop now. In an interview with Bloomberg, Viehbacher said that the company plans a new round of acquisitions that will look a lot like the deals it struck in 2009. Just don't look for any mega-mergers.

"The bigger the deal becomes," says the CEO, "the more the company gets bogged down in integrating."

- here's the press release from Sanofi
- and here's the interview with Bloomberg