- Sanofi is getting a new CEO. First reported by Reuters Thursday and announced by the company Friday, chief Olivier Brandicourt on Sept. 1 will retire and hand over the reins to Paul Hudson, who most recently served as the head of Novartis' pharmaceuticals division.
- Brandicourt for years held high-level positions at Bayer and Pfizer before taking on the CEO role at Sanofi in April 2015. At the time of his appointment, Sanofi was still trying to recover from the loss of patent protection on flagship products like Avapro and Plavix, as well as other market and supply chain challenges.
- The company's growth story has been mixed since that leadership change, characterized by a couple key drug approvals but also some dealmaking and sales misfires. Regardless, Brandicourt's departure has been anticipated because of an internal rule at Sanofi that prevents a CEO from serving after age 65, which Brandicourt would have hit in 2021.
Brandicourt took the helm at Sanofi during a tumultuous time for the French pharma.
Though its bottom line was starting to inch back up from a dip in 2013, executives expected that sales from the diabetes drug market — a cornerstone area for Sanofi — would erode over the next few years due to increased competition and pricing pressures.
Product sales would not be the only challenge.
Twice, Sanofi pursued large deals and missed. It lost Medivation, which makes small molecule cancer medicines, to Pfizer and Actelion, a specialist in pulmonary arterial hypertension drugs, to Johnson & Johnson.
The company was able to build a foothold in the rare blood disorder space through successful bids for Ablynx and Bioverativ. It also notched several key drug launches, including Dupixent (dupilumab) for eczema and asthma and Cablivi (caplacizumab) for acquired thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura.
In the first quarter, Sanofi reported that product sales increased 4.2% year over year due to the performances seen in its immunology, rare blood disorder and vaccines franchises.
Under Hudson's leadership, the company aims to continue that momentum.
Hudson joins Sanofi on the heels of a strong year for Novartis' Innovative Medicines unit, which grew 8% in 2018. Before his time at the Swiss pharma giant, Hudson was president of AstraZeneca's U.S. operations for three and a half years.
"His skills and experience give him all the assets he needs to accelerate growth and lead the Group's adaptation to new strategic challenges, particularly in the areas of Research and Development and digital," Serge Weinberg, chairman of Sanofi's board of directors, said in a June 7 statement.
At Novartis, Hudson will be replaced by Marie-France Tschudin, who currently leads Advanced Accelerator Applications.
Sanofi stock was up more than 5% Friday morning, trading at $44.60 apiece.