Sanofi hires ex-Genentech SVP Berger to head development

Sanofi
The appointment reunites Dietmar Berger with John Reed, now Sanofi’s global head of R&D. (Sanofi)

Sanofi has hired Dietmar Berger as head of development. Berger, a cancer specialist, ended his brief stint in biotech earlier this month to return to Big Pharma R&D at Sanofi.

Berger spent almost 20 years rising through the oncology ranks at Amgen, Bayer and Genentech, culminating in him holding a senior vice president position at the Roche unit. One year ago, Berger joined the exodus from Big Pharma to biotech by accepting the position of global head of R&D at Atara Biotherapeutics, an off-the-shelf cell therapy player. 

Atara revealed Berger had resigned earlier this week to pursue other opportunities, an action seen by some analysts as a response to being overlooked for the CEO role. Now, Sanofi has revealed that it is the other opportunity Berger left Atara to pursue. 

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Sanofi posted the news on Twitter rather than communicating it in a press release, limiting its comment on the hire to a line that Berger will be overseeing its “clinical portfolio across all therapeutic areas and helping us bring transformative new medicines to patients.”

The appointment reunites Berger with John Reed, now Sanofi’s global head of R&D. Reed spent six years running the pRED unit at Roche, during which time Berger held senior positions in the oncology and hematology global clinical development teams at Genentech.

Berger arrives at a time when Reed, who joined Sanofi in July 2018, is starting to reshape the R&D group in line with his plans for the company. In February, Sanofi punted 38 projects and is still considering further, albeit smaller, revisions to its focus.

“We're continuing to review the portfolio and, in fact, are in the process now of refreshing our disease area strategies and looking at one of the places where we will prioritize and focus. So while I don't expect major changes of the type you saw last year, I think we'll continue to see an effort to focus the R&D organization that will involve some prioritization,” Reed told investors last month.

If all goes to plan, a growing portion of the assets prioritized and advanced by Reed and Berger will originate at Sanofi. Having long relied on partners such as Regeneron for innovation, Sanofi now aims to derive about two-thirds of its pipeline from internal research. 

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