Lionel Picard, General Manager Sanofi Genzyme and Country Lead Sanofi Greece and Cyprus, talks to Business Partners about how Sanofi transforms scientific innovation into solutions for patients and how he sees the future of the company and the healthcare environment in Greece.
You were recently appointed General Manager Sanofi Genzyme and Country Lead Sanofi Greece and Cyprus. What are your first impressions about Greece?
I landed in Athens end of June. On the personal side, I felt extremely warmly welcome in Greece not only by Sanofi’s team but also by the whole business community. I can definitely testify that the Greek philoxenia is not a legend. On the business side, I perceive in Greece a general willingness to remain positive and face challenges with resilience and creativity. In the healthcare sector, there are many proposals that will lead to further innovations for the whole healthcare system and patients.
Talking about innovation, what can you tell us about Sanofi’s science? How is it reflected in the company’s strategy?
Science today is generating many innovations and Sanofi is at the center of this evolution. With the motivation to focus our R&D expertise in areas with the highest unmet needs, Sanofi has recently announced a shift in our R&D strategy, allocating resources from R&D projects in cardiovascular and diabetes to specialty care and vaccines. More than 15,000 people across Sanofi engaged in our R&D are committed to bringing first-in-class or best-in-class transformative therapies to patients in areas such as atopic dermatitis, oncology, rare disease, and vaccines. Currently, there are 91 projects in clinical development, 70% of projects derived from in-house research.
Greece has many assets to leverage to further attract investments in the healthcare sector
Sanofi is also transforming its digital footprint, fully committed to innovating in digital thus accelerating the company’s transformation. Digital technologies, advanced data analytics and AI are the key pillars within the R&D cycle, but also in clinical trials and regulatory reviews, improving productivity and enabling better disease understanding. As a major manufacturer and supplier, Sanofi is implementing digital solutions in our factories.
Finally, we innovate in our culture, the way we work within the company and with our stakeholders. Our people are the key to our transformation, as our company reinforces the value of empowerment and accountability of all of us working in Sanofi.
You said the company has a mission to bring transformative medicines to patients. What was Sanofi’s response to the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic?
As the Covid-19 pandemic spread across the world, our primary focus was and will remain to ensure the manufacturing and supply of our medicines. All our sites remain operational, ensuring production and supply to avoid shortages of critical medicines.
Sanofi Pasteur, a global business unit of Sanofi, is putting world-leading scientific expertise in vaccines to develop two vaccine candidates to help prevent and control Covid-19. One vaccine candidate currently in phase 1/2, in collaboration with the US BARDA, will utilize our licensed manufacturing platform used now to produce seasonal influenza vaccine, together with an adjuvant. We are partnering with GSK for their adjuvant technology. Another vaccine candidate is developed in partnership with TranslateBio, utilizing a novel messenger RNA technology.
Looking ahead, where do you see as the key priorities of Sanofi and the pharma industry in Greece?
Sanofi has been present in Greece for more than 40 years, and we are today in the top three of biopharmaceutical companies in Greece, serving more than one million patients every year.
Our operations in Greece are articulated in three Global Business Units: general medicines, specialty care, and consumer healthcare. Our vaccines portfolio is distributed by our local partner Vianex. Greece is part of a multi-country organization covering 14 countries in South Europe. This has created further development opportunities for our employees in terms of involvement in regional projects. Exposing our Greek talented team to the whole of Sanofi’s organization is of utmost importance for me.
We are currently working with the health authorities to bring additional innovative solutions to Greek patients in areas such as atopic dermatitis, non-melanoma skin cancer, multiple-myeloma, and acquired thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura.
Our ambition in Greece is also to be at the forefront of the evolution of the biopharmaceutical sector. For instance, our teams are leveraging digital in the way we interact with healthcare professionals and patients. We also aspire to strengthen our patient-centric approach. A concrete example is the recent implementation of a patient support program to facilitate patients’ access to their treatment. We are exploring real-world data monitoring programs to improve the understanding of the medical and pharmacoeconomic impact of our treatments in the Greek healthcare system environment.
Last but not least, Sanofi is significantly contributing to Research and Development in Greece. We are currently running 42 clinical trials in 199 centers.
There are many discussions about the sustainability of the healthcare system in Greece. Which are the key challenges that innovative pharma companies are facing?
Some positive steps to the right direction for the reformation of the pharmaceutical market in terms of budget and access to innovative medicines took place recently, such as the abolition of 25% entry fee rebate for new medicines and the creation of a separate budget for vaccines. Unfortunately, the recently voted amendment on the prolongation of the clawback mechanism until 2024 is a new challenge for access to innovation. To ensure a stable and sustainable environment, any proposed measures should be grounded on two key points: first, the close monitoring of the pharmaceutical expenditures and second, the increase of the public pharmaceutical budget, while at the same time, implementing structural reforms. When we see what the evolution of science could bring, patient-focus must be a priority.
Today, the access to innovation in Greece is facing significant delays in the processes and lack of financial sustainability and predictability. Sanofi’s position is fully in line with the proposals made by SFEE and PIF, working closely to explore and implement strategic solutions that will address the existing challenges. It is now more than ever important to engage all stakeholders to the direction of shared responsibilities, that could be mutually agreed in a form of a Memorandum of Understanding. We will continue to support the reinforcement of the dialogue between the State & the Pharma industry, paving the direction for a sustainable pharmaceutical funding and healthcare system.
I am optimistic and convinced that Greece has many assets to leverage to further attract investments in the healthcare sector and more specifically in clinical trials, real-world evidence data management and artificial intelligence. Sanofi remains committed to improve the health of Greek patients and partners with all stakeholders to ensure long-term sustainability of the entire healthcare system.