Sanofi’s Paul Hudson on Maintaining Innovation Momentum

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The pandemic era has demonstrated the value of innovation, from the mRNA vaccine breakthrough to the use of new technology. Speaking at the recent FT US Pharma and Biotech Summit Sanofi’s CEO Paul Hudson demonstrated that the company is not just riding the current wave but continuing to innovate on several fronts.

 

Sanofi and mRNA

Sanofi went from having nothing in mRNA three years ago to spending half a billion dollars a year on the area, but although the company has dedicated resources to it, Hudson said that in order to treat disease it is necessary to accumulate assets and not just focus on one. He mentioned the headway Sanofi has made on atopic dermatitis with its treatment, Dupixent, and said that although it may be a valid treatment for the next twenty years, the company will not stop there because the disease may evolve and new approaches may be needed.

“You can’t just hold on to one thing for dear life … You have to think about disease longitudinally for patients. You have to really want to treat diseases fundamentally. Then you have to accumulate the assets … recognizing that they won’t all work.”

 

M&A strategy

Sanofi has bought 14 companies in the last 24 months; however, Hudson stressed the importance of taking care of these acquisitions. “You really have to nurture these assets. Owning them and then deprioritizing them four years from now in a brutal portfolio devaluation is not what it is about. So, you have to care [for] and raise them,” he said.

“If you are passionate and obsessive about being first, or first and best, because you know that innovation is ultimately the only thing that will be rewarded then you have to be a little bit braver for a little bit longer which means you have to feed the assets … ,” Hudson claimed.

 

Taking advantage of technology

“I think data is allowing us to explore areas we couldn’t have done on our own,” Hudson said, arguing for a combination of humans and technology to deal with everything from budgeting to R&D.

He went on to explain how the Sanofi budgeting process has been streamlined through the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and shared an example of how the company is using machine learning to understand patient complaints through the patient contact line. Although Sanofi receives thousands of calls, using machine learning it was able to find out that in a certain geographical location patients had not understood the instructions for one of their injectables.

On the R&D front, Sanofi has invested USD 180 million equity in the medical AI company, Owkin, to focus on artificial intelligence and federated learning to advance its oncology pipeline.

“Federated learning is … about learning from your data, ” he said.


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