Zerhouni replaces Cluzel as Sanofi R&D czar

Sanofi-Aventis ($SNY) has capped its drive to transform R&D by replacing the man in charge. The pharma giant's hard-charging CEO has opted to replace Marc Cluzel (photo) as head of global R&D with Elias Zerhouni, who headed the NIH under George W. Bush. The move comes just days after Sanofi announced that it had tapped Olivier Charmeil to replace Wayne Pisano, who is retiring as chief of the company's big vaccines division.

The elevation of Zerhouni reflects the distinctive stamp that CEO Chris Viehbacher has put on the pharma giant's development efforts. Named a science adviser to Viehbacher in early 2009, the CEO gave Zerhouni a slap on the back as one of the chief protagonists in the reengineering of drug development at Sanofi. The company has been a leader in the move to redefine pipeline priorities, reduce the size of its in-house R&D effort and turn to partners in biotech and academia.

"I would like to sincerely thank Marc for his long-term contribution. His passion for science and commitment thus far has ensured a readiness to lead the implementation of the transformation of R&D over the past few years," Viehbacher said in a statement. While Cluzel is stepping down from the top R&D post, he will continue to work as an adviser to Zerhouni.

- read the Sanofi release
- check out the report from the Financial Times