Sanofi to ax 466 jobs, step up focus on cancer, gene therapy R&D 

Sanofi global R&D head John Reed
Sanofi's John Reed (Sanofi)

Sanofi is to cut 466 jobs in France and Germany as part of the reorganization of its R&D group. The job losses are part of a pivot away from cardiovascular diseases and toward immuno-oncology drugs and gene therapies.

In recent years, Sanofi has sought to revitalize its R&D group, making changes intended to lessen its reliance on external partners and hiring ex-Roche executive John Reed to lead the operation. The changes have seen Sanofi prioritize programs in oncology, immunology, rare diseases and vaccines and jettison several R&D projects that no longer fit with its focus.

Now, Sanofi is reshaping its R&D group in line with its revised priorities. Sanofi is exiting cardiology research and limiting its investments in the area to existing assets and in-licensed clinical-phase drugs. Further, the French pharma is narrowing its diabetes research focus to drugs that address the underlying causes of the disease. Sanofi will continue to develop its existing diabetes pipeline.

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The changes look set to put 466 people out of work in France and Germany. Sanofi plans to run a voluntary department program to make the cuts while navigating employment laws in the countries. 

Sanofi framed the cuts as a way to free up the money it needs to compete in other therapeutic areas. In France, Sanofi plans to step up its immuno-oncology and gene therapy research. Sanofi also plans to spend more on gene therapy R&D research in the U.S., where it has a Massachusetts group focused on the modality. In Germany, Sanofi is set to invest more in antibody engineering.

“The transformation of our R&D organization would enable us to focus on the therapeutic areas and platforms where we believe we have the greatest opportunity to make a meaningful difference for patients and to maximize the productivity of our research engine,” Sanofi’s Reed said in an emailed statement.

The changes are part of an ongoing shift in what Sanofi does at which sites. That shift could see Sanofi move R&D activities among its French sites as it seeks to make more efficient use of its resources.

Through the changes, Sanofi hopes to execute a R&D strategy that will require its internal teams to discover and develop successful drugs in some competitive therapeutic areas. Having leaned on partners such as Alnylam and Regeneron in the recent past, Sanofi thinks its R&D group is now ready to shoulder the burden of developing breakthrough products.

That belief has seen Sanofi exit partnerships—most recently with Voyager Therapeutics—and buy Ablynx and Bioverativ to fill out its R&D capabilities and pipeline. Analysts have tipped Sanofi as a potential buyer of uniQure, which could boost its gene therapy group like Ablynx expanded its rare blood disease activities.

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