Sanofi putting stamp on Genzyme

Merged firms to retain identities; Mass. will be a key research hub

By Robert Weisman
Globe Staff / June 15, 2011

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CAMBRIDGE — Two months after completing its $20.1 billion buyout of Genzyme Corp., drug giant Sanofi SA is moving quickly to integrate the two companies.

Sanofi has unveiled a research and development structure that will coordinate existing Genzyme and Sanofi research operations in Massachusetts through a new innovation unit called the Sanofi Boston R&D Hub. Genzyme’s own drug discovery programs, centered in Framingham, will operate within that unit as the Genzyme R&D Center.

Research at the Genzyme R&D Center will include not only the Cambridge biotechnology company’s own rare diseases and multiple sclerosis programs but also a Sanofi multiple sclerosis program, Sanofi chief executive Christopher A. Viehbacher said at Genzyme’s headquarters in Kendall Square. Viehbacher is serving as Genzyme’s chief executive until September to help coordinate the merging of the two companies’ operations.

Genzyme will retain its name and remain a stand-alone business unit within Sanofi. The drug maker, based in Paris, has about 5,000 employees in the Boston area, including 4,500 at Genzyme corporate, research, and manufacturing sites. Worldwide, Genzyme employs 10,000 people.

“We’re starting to make some decisions,’’ Viehbacher said. At meetings with Genzyme employees last week, he said: “The number one question [was], ‘What’s happening to me?’ And you can never answer that question fast enough. Our commitment is to try to come to these integration decisions at a 10,000-person organization across 80 countries in 90 days. Now for most people, they’ll still see that as slow. But I can tell you that pretty much sets speed records.’’

Viehbacher said his goal is to “build an even better company’’ by combining the strengths of Sanofi, a global pharmaceutical company with a strong position in developing markets, with Genzyme, which built its business on expensive drugs for rare diseases, and the compa ny’s deep ties to the patients who rely on those treatments.

Late last month, Sanofi rolled out a new reporting structure for Genzyme’s marketing and sales business units. In an employee bulletin, Sanofi said Genzyme would include personalized genetic health, the rare disease division, and multiple sclerosis operations. Other Genzyme units, including its oncology, biosurgery, and renal businesses, will be consolidated into Sanofi’s own businesses in those disease areas, though they will still operate out of the Boston area.

“When we looked at those [Genzyme] businesses, we said some of those businesses are highly specialized [with] deep personal interaction with physicians and patients,’’ Viehbacher said, “and there are businesses where essentially you want scale behind them. We felt that the Genzyme brand was most relevant to those businesses having that specialized, individual patient approach.’’

Viehbacher said Genzyme will add about 50 jobs in the areas of personalized genetic health and multiple sclerosis work. But those new positions could be offset by jobs still to be eliminated in other parts of the company, including those that overlap with Sanofi’s corporate operations. Viehbacher said it’s too soon to say how many Genzyme jobs will remain after the integration is completed.

Robert Weisman can be reached at