Sanofi chief outlines R&D, biotech investment strategy

Sanofi-Aventis CEO Chris Viehbacher (photo) took the podium at an MIT event to lay out the pharma company's R&D strategy, once again voicing his displeasure with big internal research operations and laying out a new approach to investing in small biotech companies.

"My goal as CEO is never to inaugurate a new research and development center," Viehbacher told the group, according to a report in the Boston Business Journal. At the same time, he told listeners that while there are no plans to create a corporate venture arm--a popular strategy for Roche and others--he's considering "co-investing" in promising early-stage biotechs alongside the VCs.

Viehbacher has been one of the leaders in restructuring the R&D side of the business, turning to outside CROs to handle some of the work under contract, reengineering the pipeline and concentrating efforts on a shortened list of key diseases. The CEO noted last year private companies and public agencies invested $100 billion in R&D and got back 22 approvals on new drugs in the U.S. That model won't work and needs to be replaced with a new approach toward investing in drug development, he said.

Now that Sanofi has completed its acquisition of Genzyme, the pharma company has a much bigger footprint in the Boston area, where it has been rapidly expanding its R&D work as it cuts back in other regions.

- here's the story from the Boston Business Journal