Sanafi Picks Up Genzyme for $20 Billion


French drugmaker Sanofi-Aventis is buying Massachusetts-based Genzyme for more than $20 billion. The acquisition gives Sanofi a foothold in the increasingly important pharmaceutical research community that's grown up around Harvard and MIT.


Yesterday, a French drug company announced it's buying a Massachusetts biotechnology company for just over $20 billion. The decision by that French company, Sanofi-Aventis, to purchase Genzyme, is the latest example of the expanding life sciences industry in Massachusetts.

Here's Curt Nickisch of member station WBUR.

CURT NICKISCH: You'd think that when the fourth-largest drug company in the world buys a smaller one, it would announce the deal at its headquarters in Paris. But yesterday, the CEO of Sanofi-Aventis came to Cambridge, Massachusetts to smile for the cameras with the head of Genzyme.

(Soundbite of camera shutters clicking)

NICKISCH: Sanofi's Chris Viehbacher says he wants to invest in Genzyme's development of complex drugs to treat rare diseases.

Mr. CHRIS VIEHBACHER (Chief executive, Sanofi-Aventis Time): We would be nuts to throw that huge value away. The Genzyme name that is on the top of this building is going to be there tomorrow and a year from now, and five years from now.

NICKISCH: Sanofi is only the latest drug company to expand and hire in the Boston area, where Harvard and MIT and research hospitals are furiously spinning out ideas for new therapies.

Sanofi's head of R&D, Elias Zerhouni, says his company had to come to Cambridge.

Dr. ELIAS ZERHOUNI (President, Global Research and Development, Sanofi-Aventis): And the reason is very simple. Unless you have access to the best people very quickly, you can't really pursue bold, breakthrough strategies. The cluster where that happens more often than anywhere else is right here.

NICKISCH: It's why Sanofi paid a premium price for Genzyme. It could also pay out billions more down the line, depending on how well some of Genzyme's up-and-coming drugs sell.

For NPR News, I'm Curt Nickisch, in Boston.

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