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Sanofi names drugmaker Novartis' executive Paul Hudson as next CEO

[NEW YORK] Sanofi named Novartis AG's Paul Hudson as the French drugmaker's next chief executive officer, replacing Olivier Brandicourt with one of the top managers at its Swiss rival.

Mr Hudson has led Novartis' pharmaceuticals unit since 2016 and previously spent a decade at AstraZeneca plc. The 51-year-old British executive will take over Sept 1 from Mr Brandicourt, 63, who is retiring, Sanofi said on Friday.

Sanofi will count on the new chief to bolster its pipeline of treatments, catch up with competitors in the lucrative cancer field and deal with growing US pressure on drug prices. Sanofi said in March that it had begun a search for a successor to Mr Brandicourt, who joined from Bayer AG in April 2015.

The French company is one of the world's biggest makers of diabetes drugs, which have come under focus in the US for their high and rising list prices. Sanofi has also lagged behind other drugmakers - including Novartis - that have made broad efforts to find new treatments for cancer and genetic diseases.

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Mr Hudson's strong track record at Novartis was a key part of investor confidence in the Swiss pharma giant's ability to launch new drugs, according to a note from analysts at Credit Suisse.

Drug pipeline

Mr Brandicourt has added to the company's drug pipeline with the acquisitions of Bioverativ, to expand in haemophilia, and Ablynx, maker of a medicine for a rare bleeding disorder. In 2021, Mr Brandicourt will turn 65, Sanofi's age limit for its CEO.

Sanofi has already been shaking up its senior ranks. The company last year brought in research chief John Reed from Roche Holding AG and Jean-Baptiste Chasseloup de Chatillon as chief financial officer.

Several other big drug companies have seen changes at the top in recent years, with Emma Walmsley taking charge of GlaxoSmithKline plc, Vas Narasimhan now steering Novartis AG, Kare Schultz becoming CEO at Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd and Albert Bourla taking over at Pfizer Inc.

Novartis said on Friday that Marie-France Tschudin will become the new leader of its pharmaceuticals business unit.

Sanofi shares are down less than 1 per cent this year, compared with a 1.9 per cent gain in the S&P's index of drug, biotechnology and life-sciences companies. Novartis is up 18 per cent.

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