Sanofi's Zerhouni drops biotech model in favor of "open innovation"

When former NIH chief Elias Zerhouni shifted over to work on the R&D side at Sanofi, he felt he had just the right idea on how the pharma giant's development machine could be fixed: Adopt a more biotech-like approach to drug development. Now, the R&D chief says that approach won't work, and he's helping push a complete "re-do" on development.

One of the problems, Zerhouni told the Wall Street Journal's Health Blog, is that translational research--the leap from bench to bedside--is a lot harder than he had thought when he was running the NIH. And plenty of biotech companies have stumbled on that hurdle. The answer, he says, echoing a theme that has been pronounced repeatedly by Sanofi CEO Chris Viehbacher, is to create an environment for "open innovation."

That requires scientists to get out of Sanofi's R&D silo and out in the world, working with university based research teams and getting into the field with doctors to get a more real-world look at the experimental drugs needed to treat patients. Paul Chew, Sanofi's U.S. science chief, also noted that Sanofi has chopped its total number of development projects in half so it could better focus on its best prospects.

- here's the story from the Wall Street Journal

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