#PhRMA12: Sanofi CEO Kicks Off the Annual Meeting

#PhRMA12: Sanofi CEO Kicks Off the Annual Meeting

04.12.12 | By Kate Connors

In his opening address today, Sanofi CEO Christopher Viehbacher - speaking as the PhRMA chairman - explained why our annual meeting is being held this year in Boston: "Boston wasn't chosen at random. We're investing in R&D here. We've got some of the top world-class hospitals and universities here. The Milken Institute has consistently ranked Massachusetts as the leader of medical research and innovation in America."

He also pointed out that although Massachusetts is often seen as a hotbed of small biotech companies, the entire biopharmaceutical sector - and indeed health sciences research as a whole - has a strong presence here as well: "Of the $65 billion that the private sector spends on R&D each year, PhRMA members spend nearly $50 billion of that. And we're working with physicians, hospitals and universities here."

Though, as we've discussed before, collaboration with various research partners has always been important to R&D, we are moving toward a more constructive, integrated research ecosystem among many partners. He said: "We are listening to other players in the ecosystem, and our industry is leading in this way."

Awareness of this change in business model is growing, Viehbacher added: "Investors are starting to appreciate the new models that our companies are creating. Even though we have a difficult environment, the investor base - not everything is about investors, but they tend to look at long-term views of the industry - has a more positive viewpoint of the industry."

Later today, we'll discuss the idea of partnerships, and the effect that they have, in more detail.

Of course, Viehbacher noted, although biopharmaceutical companies invest a majority of their dollars with the U.S., our scope does not end at America's borders: "All of our companies are increasingly international and we have to make sure that all of our companies, wherever they do business, have an environment that is conducive to innovation."

After all, there is still tremendous work to be done. "We have to continue to work at unmet medical need," he said, highlighting need in cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and the more than 7,000 identified rare diseases. "We only have cures or treatments for 300 or 400 of those 7,000 diseases. I also don't think the science has ever been more promising. And that science is important for the future, but it has never been more difficult to fund a new idea. Still, we must continue to support better science in the name of better health."

I also took note of something that Viehbacher said that really resonates in this industry, and that I think we'll remember throughout the Annual Meeting: "Healthcare is complex. But healthcare matters. And we have to make sure we're maintaining the engines of innovation."

Follow Kate at @KateAtPhRMA.

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