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Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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« GSK's Getting Better. Just Ask the CEO. | Main | What's With Those People at Elsevier, Anyway? »

June 24, 2009

Meanwhile, Over At Sanofi-Aventis. . .

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Posted by Derek

There's a lot of talk that something big is going to happen at Sanofi-Aventis next week. What we don't know is whether this is a sales-and-marketing change, a mostly-European change, or what. The company's been through layoffs already, but hey, in this climate, who hasn't? More on this as something reliable emerges. . .

Comments (9) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business and Markets


1. Alig on June 24, 2009 11:55 AM writes...

Viehbacher is planning on doing the same as Witty, firing half the internal staff and buying drugs from small companies to make up the difference.

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2. Hap on June 24, 2009 12:29 PM writes...

Doesn't that only work when you have a reasonable internal pipeline and external funding sources are weak or nonexistent? If the recession in drugs actually ends, then SA, GSK, and the others will be competing strongly with each other and VCs to fund potential drugs, and without significant internal candidates, their bargaining position will be rather poor. If they want to rebuild their internal research later, filling the positions will probably cost them more later.

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3. Becky on June 24, 2009 2:37 PM writes...

Re: Hap @#2
I am starting to think that the big pharma execs think just like the big banking execs do...only concerned with the next 2-3 years at most because after that they will be gone.

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4. Cellbio on June 24, 2009 6:53 PM writes...

Becky, this is surely the case. The tenure is more like 5 years. I lived through one cycle where the new guy came in, trashed everyone and most every program, which of course meant he had to hire his friends from academia.

In one meeting, a particular program was singled out as an example of all that is wrong with the company. Now, about 7 years later, that project, and the fate of the company with it is in the hands of the FDA. Of course, the new team now takes full responsibility for transforming the company and delivering this success. Can't make this stuff up.

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5. milkshake on June 25, 2009 6:33 AM writes...

Imagine that you were in their skin - with a 600k salary and even bigger bonus in stock options, and a mandate to "turn the company around" and only a foggy idea whats wrong. Without actually addressing the real cause (=the top management ignores reality and makes irresponsible decisions because it is filled with spineless clueless imbeciles - remember, you will need those people to support you), you have to suggest quick phony solutions, you have to bring in your cronies and institute a "flat structure" so that you could concentrate all power in your hands. Anything that comes out right is the result of your implemented policies, everything thats wrong has to find the scapegoats. You lie through the teeth about the awesome company prospects to keep up the stock price. You give pep talks to keep up the moral while preparing massive layoffs. You cook up a collaboration based on vague but trendy methodology. Then you go on with a liquidation-acquisition of a promising little company. Then you move onto another corporate job - before its apparent that your "turned-around" company sunk even lower.

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6. Don B. on June 25, 2009 7:24 AM writes...


How about "when will the reccession end" poll?

There are some who think a country cannot print money or go Socialist as a way out.

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7. petros on June 25, 2009 8:20 AM writes...

From Reuters

Details of Sanofi's R&D reorganisation due in next few weeks
25 June 2009
The specifics of Sanofi-Aventis’ R&D restructuring programmes are to be unveiled in the next month, according to the French drugmaker’s chief executive.

In an interview with Reuters, Chris Viehbacher said that the Paris-headquartered group is “clearly down the path to give a new dynamics to our R&D organisations". At the end of April, Sanofi terminated 14 out of 65 R&D projects, including four late-stage compounds, but its review is also looking at a different approach to research. Mr Viehbacher said that "we have a number of things to address in terms of how we get our people to work together, how we can provide more latitude for creativity, how we can develop them scientifically and how we can encourage external collaboration, because there is a world of science out there."

This interest in external deals echoes comments Mr Viehbacher made just after he took over the reins at Sanofi when he noted that “innovation is not dead, there are 6,000 biotechs out there”, as well as numerous government and academic schemes. He made no comment on possible job losses other than the 927 posts being cut in France which was announced in October last year. The company is scheduled to meet with French trades unions next week.

Mr Viehbacher told Reuters that "I think you will see a fair amount of communication over the course of July, and we will follow up with detail in the third to fourth quarter”. He added that Sanofi is ready to use its free cash of 4 billion euros ($5.5 billion) for acquisitions.

He would not completely exclude a mega-merger but comments made in the last few months and the deals done, such as the purchase of generic drugmakers – the Czech firm Zentiva, Brazil’s Medley and Laboratorios Kendrick of Mexico – suggest that bolt-on acquisitions are more likely. Mr Viehbacher said that “if we can find other acquisition opportunities like Zentiva elsewhere, we will do that."

He concluded by noting that “we are constantly looking, so yeah, we will probably do some more deals this year, I just can't tell you when, because I do not know when the fish is going to bite”.

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8. MedChem on June 25, 2009 9:27 AM writes...

Good luck laying off anyone in Europe.

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9. Teuta9 on June 26, 2009 2:00 PM writes...

Soooo... once again Viehbacher/SA and Whitty/GSK seem to be following precisely the same strategy - makes me wonder which one came up with all the ideas during the square-off to succeed JP Garnier!

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