7. Sanofi


R&D budget: €5.17 billion ($5.45 billion)
Change from 2015: Up 1.8%
Total revenue in 2016: €33.82 billion ($35.64 billion)
R&D budget as percentage of revenue: 15.2%

Sanofi had a bit of a year to forget when it came to buying up biotechs and expanding its pipeline—it failed to beat out Pfizer in its winning $14 billion bid for cancer biotech Medivation, losing out on some increasingly hot cancer candidates (and blockbuster prostate cancer med Xtandi).

It got worse at the end of the year when it also appeared to fluff its lines in its failed attempt to buy Actelion.

It all seemed to be going the French pharma’s way when bidder Johnson & Johnson walked away from talks, allowing Sanofi to swoop in and take the deal with little resistance.

But in the end, J&J itself came back as a white knight and snapped up the biotech for $30 billion after Sanofi’s execs came in with a lowball offer (Medivation will see some similarities here), a list of “extensive due diligence requests,” and issues around the “tenor and content” of the meeting itself. Investors are not happy, and want Sanofi to get is M&A act together.

Last year also saw the Big Pharma attempt to get back into oncology after steadily externalizing drug development over the past few years, downsizing its internal oncology R&D operations significantly in 2015.

But last January, it signed a deal with France's Innate Pharma to get involved in the immuno-oncology space, where it is currently far behind its rivals, while recently retooling its deal with Massachusetts-based upstart Warp Drive Bio, under the eye of Sanofi's Sunrise Initiative.

Sanofi currently has a small group of cancer drugs on the market but is far behind its Big Pharma rivals in the latest classes of oncology R&D, prompting its about-face last year with a mini deal spree with cancer biotechs.

And while failing in the deal department, Sanofi had a notable win when it poached Yong-Jun Liu as its new head of research from AstraZeneca’s biologic arms MedImmune, while it looked to beef up its early-stage pipeline and senior R&D leadership team.

Liu, one of the world's most prolific researchers in immunology, has seen his work lead to the development of several key drug targets in the areas of allergy, immunology and oncology.

Under the French drugmaker's direction, he’s now responsible for leading all of Sanofi’s research and will work alongside its leadership team to “build a competitive R&D organization,” according to a statement from the company.

But this all came amid some major cuts to Sanofi’s R&D ops, announcing in February last year that it was starting its latest round of job cuts, with more than 500 in its home country. This was said to include almost 300 open R&D jobs not being filled, with another 250-plus cuts hitting Sanofi's commercial operations and corporate offices.

The company has been looking to save money since new CEO Olivier Brandicourt took over, given some major patent losses over the years combined with pricing pressures for its diabetes franchise.

Check out Sanofi’s pipeline.

7. Sanofi