Sanofi execs prep their pitch on a post-Viehbacher R&D strategy

Chris Viehbacher

One of the primary roles for any Big Pharma CEO is to act as a chief defender of the pipeline. Just months ago, Chris Viehbacher boldly asserted that Sanofi ($SNY) had one of the top 5 pipelines in the industry, if you added in some top programs among its close development partners.

That argument rested quite a bit on Regeneron ($REGN), which Viehbacher grew very close with, acquiring a big stake in the biotech along the way. But it was enough for some of the most bullish analysts following the company. Now that the CEO has been shoved out following a stunning break with the board over his "management style," the bulls don't know where to run without Viehbacher to guide them.

"Chris Viehbacher had a very clear strategy. And all that is kind of up in the air now," Royal London Asset Management's Andrea Williams told Reuters.

"It's all about clarification," Hermes Global's Geir Lode told the wire service. "I feel like I'm walking in the fog now. I see nothing and I need the sun to come out."

As a result, all clouded eyes on Wall Street--along with all the company's partners and the R&D execs Viehbacher hired--are now shifting focus to next week, when Sanofi officials will host their annual investors day to review their top drug prospects. Significantly, the review will be conducted in Boston, where Viehbacher had moved earlier this year. His departure from Paris has been cited as one of the reasons why he lost the support of the board, led by Chairman Serge Weinberg.

Sanofi does have some top late-stage prospects. There's the PCSK9 drug alirocumab, developed by Regeneron in partnership with Sanofi. There's also a closely watched dengue vaccine as well as dupilumab--another Regeneron program. But those are all well-known players with clearly understood prospects. The big question now is what the industry can expect from Sanofi in the way of new acquisitions, collaborations and licensing deals.

And will the company continue to focus its R&D efforts in Boston, rather than France?

Any and all hints about its future direction will be followed closely. But no conclusive answers are likely before the next CEO is ushered in to set the tone--and defend it.

- here's the Reuters story

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