Sanofi’s ‘Play to Win’ Transformation Reaping Dividends with 7% Growth Last Year

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When British executive Paul Hudson joined French pharma Sanofi back in 2019, he was quick to launch a “play to win” strategy, shedding underperforming areas and doubling down on its stronger assets.

 

While the COVID-19 pandemic – and Sanofi’s failure to bring a vaccine to market thus far, despite being the world’s largest vaccine company – was a setback, the firm performed well in 2021 with sales growth up 7.1 percent compared to 2020, rising to EUR 37.7 billion. This was driven by a 19.7 percent increase in its specialty care business to EUR 12.7 billion led by star product Dupixent which saw 53.1 percent growth in Q4 2021 to EUR 1.549 billion. The firm’s vaccines division grew by 6.8 percent to EUR 6.3 billion and consumer healthcare saw 4.6 percent growth to EUR 4.5 billion in full year 2021.

This year, Sanofi also unveiled a new corporate brand, logo, and purpose, which aims to symbolise the company’s strategic transformation, shedding the well-known Pasteur (vaccines) and Genzyme (specialty care) names and unifying Sanofi’s various arms under a single brand umbrella.

This reshaping could see around 6,000 job cuts, with CFO Jean-Baptiste Chasseloup de Chatillon telling the most recent quarterly investors call that “We are embracing digital change, streamlining our portfolio, and collaborating with partners in geographies to balance or reduce infrastructure while improving access to our medicines.”

 

Play to Win

Back in 2020, PharmaBoardroom spoke to Bill Sibold, then executive vice president of Sanofi Genzyme and now, post-rebranding, executive vice president and global head, specialty care, who took us through the thought process behind the firm’s “play to win” strategy.

“This strategy comprises four pillars: grow, lead with innovation, accelerate efficiency, and reinvent how we work,” he stated. “With a renewed focus on growth, we implemented a portfolio prioritization journey, eliminating some programs, and ultimately identifying six priority assets for Sanofi. This is fundamentally important because you cannot feign success in this industry. Any pharma company is going to be judged by how they grow their top line, which means that they need great assets.

 

You cannot feign success in this industry. Any pharma company is going to be judged by how they grow their top line, which means that they need great assets

Bill Sibold, Sanofi Specialty Care

 

“This means leading with innovation. Sanofi brought in John Reed, M.D. Ph.D. as EVP, global head of R&D a couple of years ago and he has really refocused our R&D engine on first-in-class and best-in-class assets. That has delivered – and will continue to deliver – the kind of innovation that will drive the growth we seek.

“At the same time, we also want to accelerate efficiency. Jean-Baptiste Chasseloup de Chatillon joined nearly two years ago as EVP, CFO and has made great strides in helping the organization become more efficient. The only way to ensure that we maximize our returns on investment is to place them where they could make the biggest difference: our innovative, growth-driving portfolio.

“Finally, the success we seek also means reinventing how we work. This started with the restructuring of the organization into three core global business units: Specialty Care, Vaccines, and General Medicines, with Consumer Healthcare becoming a standalone organization. Paul is a fervent believer in empowerment and accountability and wants people throughout the entire Sanofi organization to behave in ways that will drive the company’s transformation. He has put in place an executive committee that embraces this Play to Win strategy and we are all committed to seeing this strategy through.”

 

Product Launch Machine

For Sanofi’s regional and country managers, this renewed sense of focus and purpose has led to a deluge of new product launches. As Jean-Paul Scheuer, General Manager, Sanofi Genzyme and MCO Lead for the Gulf & KSA outlines, “We are lucky to work in a company with such an exciting journey ahead after a relatively slow decade in terms of launches. After his arrival in 2019, our CEO Paul Hudson started the company’s new chapter, doing a fantastic job to introduce a new way of working, refocusing the priorities, and giving us a clearer sense of purpose. Today, Sanofi is a real research-based company with specific priorities in terms of execution.”

 

In 2020, we had 20 new launches in the region, some of which were new indications, and we have launched ten new indications in 2021

Jean-Paul Scheur, Sanofi Gulf & KSA

 

Scheuer continues, “In 2020, we had 20 new launches in the region, some of which were new indications, and we have launched ten new indications in 2021. We are extremely active in developing our specialty care business in the region, with a special focus on Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Kuwait.”

Marine Queniart-Stojanovic, oversees Sanofi’s general medicines portfolio in Thailand, Malaysia & Singapore and has a slightly different take on the impact of this global transformation. “These global movements help ensure that Sanofi can concentrate on the areas in which it can make the most difference to patients,” she notes. “In mature markets, we can have the biggest impact in the specialty care and vaccines areas. However, in emerging markets like Thailand and Malaysia the biggest pain points and the real needs of patients are still in chronic diseases. For example, diabetes is still a huge issue with unmet needs and a burden in our countries and therefore remains a focus and a growth area.”

Queniart-Stojanovic adds, “Where we are completely aligned with global strategy is looking at how best to allocate and prioritise resources to have the biggest impact on patients in a local context. For us, that is in diabetes, cardiovascular, thrombosis, and a few other key therapeutic areas. At the same time, our specialty care and vaccines business units are also very active here.”

 

Vaccine Opportunities

While specialty care is Sanofi’s largest and most profitable division, vaccines is not far behind. As Paul Hudson told the FT, while Sanofi has not yet been able to bring its own COVID-19 vaccine to market, it is well placed to bring a workable and scalable vaccine to market eventually, even if it is not the first mover. “We have 10,000 people working in vaccines in house,” he proclaimed. “We make a billion doses of vaccines for influenza, yellow fever, rabies, and meningitis every year, which means we know how to scale.”

A Sanofi Vaccines executive recently outlined to PharmaBoardroom some of the myriad opportunities in a field that COVID-19 has underlined the importance of. “The first [opportunity] is that the growing public awareness of vaccines has led to a greater willingness on the part of the authorities to engage more with the industry on vaccination in general and how we can improve public health and national immunisation strategies. For example, the Gulf countries were very successful in rolling out COVID-19 vaccinations, so we are now working with authorities to see how we can replicate this success in other areas, such as influenza.”

“Another opportunity, which is more global than local, is around mRNA technology, which COVID has catapulted into the limelight. Sanofi jumped into this opportunity and is now working on advancing mRNA technologies and adapting them for use in more routine settings outside of the pandemic. The company has created an mRNA Centre of Excellence and by 2025 we are aiming to have six mRNA projects in clinical development across our portfolio, not only in vaccines.

“Finally, Sanofi was the first Big Pharma to invest in evolutive vaccine manufacturing facilities. In the knowledge that vaccines are set to come to market more quickly than ever before, we were quick to invest in this new type of agile manufacturing facility, where three to four vaccines can be produced simultaneously. Greater flexibility in the manufacturing process will allow Sanofi to shift between vaccines and create better answers to the problems posed by future pandemics.”


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