As the Head of Sanofi’s North America R&D Hub, I am often asked what exactly we are trying to achieve, what success looks like, or how we can measure it. Since this is my first time writing for a corporate blog, I thought that providing a big picture view of what we do in R&D and what we hope to accomplish would be a fitting post, to answer these relevant questions – especially given the high failure rate when we’re trying to bring safe and effective drugs to market.
In the world of biopharmaceuticals, “success” translates beyond the realm of business and beyond the realm of drugs that do not make it to the end of the pipeline. Instead, success deals with the far more important matter of patient welfare. Innovation is a key driver of this success – the attitude and practice at the foundation of better therapies, and healthier, happier patients.
I recently participated in the Partnering for Cures meeting in NYC. It was encouraging to hear in-depth panel discussions across the various healthcare sectors, and validating to know we share some of the same concerns around the perceived roadblocks to innovation. More than 800 leaders from across the spectrum of medical research gathered for this meeting, with the aim of making collaborations happen – collaborations that are critical to accelerating the timeline for turning discoveries into treatments and cures.
It is evident back at the office and in settings like Partnering for Cures that in the R&D ecosystem, we cannot innovate alone. For the medical research system to work, it has to be patient-focused and patient-driven, which requires an iterative, collaborative process involving academics, clinicians and industry. The creation and implementation of successful treatments ultimately depends upon our ability to access the best ideas, science and people. As such, our approach to innovation stems from geographically focused and fully integrated research hubs, through which scientists can partner with external teams. Within each hub and team, we focus on innovative strategies that will result in more efficient research and more effective treatment.
Historically, the pharmaceutical industry designed drugs from biological targets that were not always well validated and in areas where the path to clinical proof-of-concept and validation in patients was uncertain. We screened scores of molecules to see whether they had any effect on different disease models that were often incompletely qualified. There were too many assumptions regarding the biology of diseases. Today, we begin with an understanding of the underlying cause(s) of a given disease, and we work to develop a solution to interfere with that process.
Our innovation within R&D extends to Sanofi’s broader focus on putting the patient first. We ground our efforts in those whom we seek to treat, by applying knowledge from patient populations and medical experience much earlier in the R&D process. To make these transformative research efforts a reality, Sanofi has come to translate the human situation as a yardstick to judge the quality of projects.
At Sanofi, we have great people and fantastic ideas, but no one organization can single-handedly tackle the complexity of human illness. Instead, we embrace a true innovative spirit through collaboration, and raise our own expectations for the health of our business and more importantly, our patients. In doing so, we move toward a successful R&D organization and with one of the best portfolios in the industry.