Sanofi Pasteur Lets Genzyme Corporation's Biotech Culture Call the Shots

Published: Nov 16, 2012

When Sanofi boss Chris Viehbacher first met staff at Genzyme, the U.S. biotech he had just acquired after a long takeover battle, he told them he did not want "planeloads of people coming from Paris over here to kind of Sanofize Genzyme". More than one year later, the German-Canadian, who is Sanofi's first non-French boss, has kept his promise: it is Genzyme's free-spirited culture and innovative edge that is holding sway at the French drug giant. Genzyme executives now run the company's U.S. headquarters near Boston, one of its international research hubs which Viehbacher is betting on to revive Sanofi's lacklustre drug research results. Highlighting Genzyme's dominance, Sanofi's newly-appointed deputy head of research and development operations, virologist Gary Nabel, will be based at Genzyme's head office in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Nabel, a highly respected scientist at the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1999, is a notable catch for Sanofi. Even the group's new headquarters in central Paris has a biotech feel, with open-plan offices and multiple meeting rooms designed to encourage staff to share ideas. "It's an approach Sanofi is adopting at a global level," one analyst said on condition of anonymity. "It's a different approach and it will take a bit more time to implement in France, but the decisions that have been taken are being put into practice anyway."

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