How Sanofi Could Start Off on the Right Foot in Cambridge


Xconomy Boston — 

To: Chris Viehbacher, CEO, Sanofi Aventis
From: The Boston Biotech Community
Re: Making the Most of the Impending Merger

Dear Mr. Viehbacher,

In the heat of the discussions regarding an acquisition of Genzyme that now look like they are on track for rapid completion, you may not have had much time to think about exactly what will happen in the aftermath. Sure, you have plans for Genzyme’s products as well as for the teams and facilities involved in producing them. Those products—and their revenue streams—are presumably why you are buying the company.

But don’t forget Genzyme’s excellent R&D. Unlike many other biotech companies serving the specialty market, Genzyme has grown organically as well as by acquisition. It has done so in part by spending heavily on R&D—the recent amount has ranged between $200 million and $225 million a quarter—and cultivating a group of researchers whose contributions could still be immense. If you downsize Genzyme the severe way that some expect, you might be throwing away enormous potential for future products to benefit human health.

Instead of taking this drastic and, in our view, unnecessary step, we have a different suggestion. Inspired by the example of the merger of Ciba-Geigy and Sandoz to form Novartis in 1996, out of which the successful Novartis Venture Fund was eventually born, we suggest that you consider setting aside some money to create Sanofi Genzyme Ventures. A new VC fund could provide several benefits to Sanofi and it could have a hugely positive impact on your standing in the Boston biotech community. Let’s look at the reasons to do something like this and then look at how it could work.

1. A VC fund could provide a more valuable transition for some of the more ambitious members of the Genzyme R&D team than dead-end severance pay. Think of it as a combination of “outplacement services” and a way for Sanofi to stay connected to some outstanding scientists. Sure, in addition to setting up a fund, Sanofi would still have to … Next Page »

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Steve Dickman is a former venture capitalist and the CEO of boutique consulting firm CBT Advisors as well as the author of the blog Boston Biotech Watch. Follow @

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2 responses to “How Sanofi Could Start Off on the Right Foot in Cambridge”

  1. Nathan says:

    Not a bad idea. Big pharma is getting too complacent in post betting by buying smaller outfits when they become successful. The reason why those smaller firms have been so successful is their investment in R & D, something big pharma should revisit.