Sanofi seals fate of Plavix R&D hub and others in layoff plan

Confirming French research workers' worst fears, Sanofi ($SNY) made clear yesterday that the Paris-based drugmaker plans to push ahead with major layoffs and the closure of its R&D operation in Toulouse, where the blood thinner Plavix was developed. A French labor official told Bloomberg that the latest round of cuts at the company could claim up to 2,500 jobs in the country, even more than the previous estimate of 2,000.

The cutbacks reflect a confluence of setbacks and new priorities at Sanofi, where CEO Chris Viehbacher has pledged to seek new drugs from external sources to complement internal R&D to bring new products to market. Yet it's proven difficult for the company to replenish its stock of approved drugs, as was evident earlier this week with the drugmaker's decision to yank back all its applications to sell semuloparin (Mulsevo) after U.S. regulators rebuffed a package of data to support approval of the drug for preventing blood clots from forming in patients on chemo.

Sanofi R&D chief Elias Zerhouni, who was brought in to revamp drug research in recent years, gave his colleagues from Toulouse a heads-up about the reduction plans, Bloomberg reported. And one union official told the news service that the talks brought him to tears. He faces the same sad truth as those from Sanofi's Bridgewater, NJ, R&D site, which the drugmaker decided to shutter earlier this year: The company is shuttering some hubs in some locations and ramping up in others, such as the Boston area where the company's new Genzyme unit and its oncology R&D reside.

Historic research sites don't appear to be winning any points with Sanofi brass. The cutbacks will also hit the company's old research site in Montpellier, France, which is on the chopping block. A Sanofi spokeswoman told The Wall Street Journal that the final plans for the facilities would be announced in September. Until then, expect morale at those facilities to be abysmal as employees contemplate their futures and old R&D glories like Plavix.

- see the WSJ story
- and read Bloomberg's article

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