Sanofi: “This is indicative of the collapse of an ecosystem in terms of research and development in France”, estimates a health economist

Sanofi: “This is indicative of the collapse of an ecosystem in terms of research and development in France”, estimates a health economist

More and more frequently, research is outsourced to biotechnology companies which, if they are European, are rarely French, points the finger at Frédéric Bizard, called on to comment on the announced elimination of 400 positions in the research and development branch of the laboratory.

A technician at work at the Sanofi laboratory in Val-de-Reuil (Eure), July 10, 2020 (illustration).  (JOEL SAGET / AFP)

“This is indicative of the collapse of an ecosystem in terms of research and development in France”, explained Monday, January 18 on franceinfo Frédéric Bizard, professor of economics at ESCP Business School, while the French pharmaceutical group Sanofi intends to cut 400 positions in the research and development branch, according to information published by France Inter. “All of this is the response to a strategic shift that began about two years ago”, analyzes the president of the Health Institute.

franceinfo: The management of Sanofi does not confirm this figure of 400 positions deleted. Does this figure seem credible to you?

Frédéric Bizard:It seems credible to me compared to what had been announced by Sanofi, especially in relation to the strategic shift. All of this is the response to a strategic shift that began about two years ago, when Paul Hudson [le PDG de Sanofi] arrived.

Unfortunately, I would say that this figure is not very surprising because you cannot transfer research and development resources from one sector to another. These are expertises. So, I’m not necessarily very surprised. But I understand the reaction of the unions because it raises questions.

Is this a good signal to send right now?

The question is to assess the robustness of the new strategy. This new strategy is in market segments which are extremely competitive. Just about all the big pharmaceutical companies are, for example, on oncology, especially with biotechnology. The question is whether Sanofi, by reducing its weight in old historical segments and going so far as to cut Research & Development positions, is not taking too great a risk by focusing on extremely competitive segments. Will it have sufficient expertise to be competitive in this segment? Afterwards, there are obviously the social consequences that need to be looked at, but we can think that there are support plans that will be put in place.

It is nevertheless indicative of the collapse of an ecosystem in terms of research and development in France, where the clinical research process has been extremely bureaucratized, extremely over-administered, and we have seen it with research on vaccines. Unfortunately, clinical research is still being done in Europe, but less and less in France. And I believe that Sanofi, on this, also pays for this environment which must absolutely be reviewed. I think it’s a priority if we want to regain some health sovereignty.

Philippe Martinez wonders about a relationship between the job cuts and the delay of the Covid-19 vaccine. What do you think ?

One can wonder about the legibility of the strategy which is put in place. The loss of Research & Development resources inevitably weakens a company that is focused on research. You should also know that normally in “big pharmas”, there is a segmentation of the pharmaceutical industry’s value chain where research, and this is not specific to Sanofi, is often done outside in companies. biotechnology companies, with licenses that are purchased. This is the case, for example, of Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna.

So, it’s also a pretty general trend in the pharmaceutical industry to segment. Is this a good development? It all depends on where this research is done. On Sanofi, what we can see is a problem of instability of governance: if we look at a little over a long period of 7 to 8 years, we realize that there is still very regularly at the highest level of society an instability of governance. I understand that at the level of employees, union forces, we can ask ourselves if we have good control over the long term, if there is a strong vision, and if we are not always trying to adjust and weaken society.