- Sanofi’s global head of research and development, John Reed, is leaving the company to take on a similar position at Johnson & Johnson, which has been searching for a replacement to Mathai Mammen, who left last year. J&J confirmed Reed’s appointment Monday afternoon, hours afters Sanofi announced his departure.
- Reed joined the French pharmaceutical giant in 2018 and, in the years since, has overseen the transformation of its drug development efforts. Once known for heart and diabetes research, Sanofi is now more heavily focused on cancer, immune disorders and rare diseases.
- Sanofi said it’s already looking both in and outside the company for a successor to Reed. In the meantime, Dietmar Berger, the company’s chief medical officer, will also serve as an interim lead for the R&D team.
At the tail end of 2019, Sanofi unveiled a multiyear plan aimed at improving growth. A core element of that plan was “reinventing how the company works,” which included making R&D more focused, efficient and science-driven.
Now, a few years later, Sanofi claims it’s ahead of schedule reaching its goals.
In 2023, the company expects to launch two new drugs — one for hemophilia, the other for respiratory syncytial virus — and have data from key studies testing potential treatments for multiple sclerosis and COPD. And over the next 15 months, Sanofi forecasts having results from 27 early- to mid-stage studies of its drugs.
To CEO Paul Hudson, Sanofi’s current position is a testament to Reed and his team. “Under John’s leadership, our R&D organization has built a robust pipeline and sharpened its research focus, employing cutting-edge therapeutic platforms and creating a culture that responds to the urgent needs of patients,” he said in a statement.
Hudson said, too, that “[t]his is what we were aiming for when we laid our strategy in 2019, and the 2022 results we recently published confirmed our choices.” In January, Sanofi noted how the company’s year-over-year sales growth in 2018 was 2.5%, compared to an estimated 15% in 2022.
Sanofi has maintained that the two products it intends to launch this year, Altuviiio and Beyfortus, could be significant new medicines for the diseases they respectively treat, as well as for the company’s bottom line.
The former is under review at the Food and Drug Administration as a once-weekly treatment for hemophilia A, the more common form of the rare bleeding disease. While the market for hemophilia A drugs is crowded, and could soon see the entry of a gene therapy, Sanofi leadership claims there’s room for Altuviiio. An approval decision from the FDA should come before the end of the month.
Meanwhile, RSV has very few treatment options despite being a leading cause of hospitalization and death for infants. Sanofi says a single dose of Beyfortus, which is an antibody therapy, has been shown to reduce the risk of lower respiratory tract infections from RSV by 80%. The company expects to hear an approval verdict on Beyfortus sometime between July and September.
Reed will now take on the challenge of overseeing R&D at J&J, the world’s largest pharmaceutical company. He will start on April 3, J&J said, replacing interim head William Hait.
The switch adds to recent turnover in the ranks of big pharma R&D leaders. In addition to Mammen and Reed, last year brought the departure of Jay Bradner from his role as head of Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research as well as Hal Barron’s exit from GSK. More recently, Rupert Vessey stepped down from his position leading research and early development at Bristol Myers Squibb.
Barron is now CEO of the richly funded biotechnology company Altos Labs. Bradner, Mammen and Vessey have not announced their next roles.
Ned Pagliarulo contributed writing.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with news of Reed’s new position at J&J, as well as additional detail.