A Magazine Capturing the Story of Health- For People, Environment, Economy & Habitat

WEResearch Note – #pharma – Beyond Business as Usual!

A Research Summary

by Lavinia Weissman

Boston, MA


(graphic: from Vertex Pharmaceuticals collection)

Sanofi Aventis announced the completion of its acquisition of Genzyme, April ll, 2011.  Now is it business  as usual for this progressive global pharmaceutical company?

This raises the question what is “business as usual,” for pharma?  The answer is simple:  “There is no such thing as business as usual for #pharma.”

I began reporting on the changing space of #pharma after the Babson Life Science Conference in 2010, where Matthew Emmens, CEO of Vertex Pharmaceuticals in his keynote described his vision for the future #pharma

” Emmens recognizes that treatment for the majority of ailments, e.g. acid reflux, has and will continue to grow over the counter.   Therefore, the future is about creating a biopharm industry that is responsive to challenging disease that will address the 150 different types of cancer and growing number of systemic ailments. The challenge will be to fund this innovation and research and organize an investment formula that is dedicated to this new emerging market. “

Scott Johnson, CEO and capacity building, Myelin Repair Foundation has proactively since 2004 initiated discovery of an accelerated methodology that leaps beyond what Johnson describes as the Valley of Death. 

Any person diagnosed with a chronic or life threatening illness faces this valley emotionally and physically upon diagnosis.  This person lives in the context of questions:

  •   Will there be a cure for me before  I have to face total disability or impending death?
  •   Can I  sustain the cost of treatment to assure a quality of life out of which I can sustain myself and live?”

Johnson developed with his colleagues, an accelerated research collaboration , the describe as ARC. This model was put to use and built capacity for acceleration by  a group of researchers drawn from 4 academic institutions to combine their agenda in search of a cure.  Johnson with the Myelin Repair Foundation raised matching funds of $40 M and this matched the$40M of combined funding the academic research institutions had.  Drawing from resources from 4 medical schools, the community organized an agenda to leap beyond the “valley of death” where so many patients with MS get lost.

Myelin Repair Foundation in contrast to the FDA

Social innovation expert,  David Bornstein recently compared the results generated by the FDA in 2008 to what has been reported by MRF

In his NYTimes Editorial,  Bornstein reported that  Food and Drug Administration approved 21 drugs for use in 2008, in the same year 800,000 medical research papers were published exploring the cure for disease.  In contrast, the collaboration formed for MS research  by Scott Johnson led to these results:

  1. identification of over 150 novel potential targets;
  2. development of  24 new research tools for broad application to other neurological disease;
  3. filing two US patents and applied for 16 more;
  4. publication of 50 peer review articles;
  5. the launch of  broader collaboration with pharma companies;
  6. extending this research base for benefit to 70 other disease categories.”

Reporting on the pharmaceutical industry is growing complex, especially as more and more companies step their toes into examining the ethic of sustainability and corporate social responsibility.  The complexity ties to growing questions about how to oversee patient involvement in clinical trials for the progression of research, treatment and cure.

When does the patient become a guinea pig and when does the growing differences in approach to clinical trials internationally become an obstacle to the potential cure or treatment of disease? and when is quality of life more important than treatment?

There is a growing recognition of the implications of the quadruple bottom line (4bl) and its implications to health for people, environment, ethic and planet and its implications of how any company approaches any  initiative for health and treatment.

Sanofi Aventis has come to recognize that this context may in fact imply a process of learning and inquiry that implies shifting their corporate strategy beyond the tradition of how pharmaceuticals go about business as usual. In 2009, CEO Chris Veihbacher  announced  Sanofi’s  clear commitment to improve the health of as many of the 6.8B people walking the planet. With the publication of its 2010 report, a value was expressed to deepen this mission by describing itself as a global health care leader.

In coming to this conclusion, Sanofi has asserted an ethic to contain as part of their strategy and development model to appreciate today’s human economic challenges and factoring in societal issues of cost of health care and treatment, chronic illness pandemics, e.g. Diabetes, and access to medical care in its priority from a global view.

Sanofi Aventis continues to be a company to watch and learn from.  It is a company that has adopted transparency, so please do not look to Sanofi for perfection and answers to copy. Sanofi has added to its agenda the difficult question of how to balance profit and sustainability.  It is a systemic approach that moves beyond the traps of green marketing described this week by Joel Makower, “Green Marketing Is Over. Let’s Move On.”

Sanofi Aventis is acknowledge what I first heard described by Matthew Emmens, when he said pharma was moving beyond the marketing of generis to face the reality of responding to the activism and demand from communities of people living with chronic and life threatening illness.

The new health care leader will be paying heed to what the Myelin Repair Foundation response to the valley of death.  Pharma companies will be regroup into consumer goods, wellness products and services, treatment and cure innovation and much more.

Sanofi Aventis,  Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline are all early stage members of the UN Global Compact will continue to be companies to watch that are helping to author a new leadership and market place in support of health. In this context,

I believe we will be reading more about the annual cost of living with a chronic or life threatening illness.

I believe, we will be reading less about what pharmacy offers you or what generic drug is available for the least cost.

In the not to distant future,  I believe we will be reading more about how treatment, procedures, equipment is organized for ease of access and how the expense will be covered by patient and health coverage (insurance, government and assistance programs, and medical savings accounts) and what that implies to the supply chain, consumer product distribution and retail.


Authors bio:

Lavinia Weissman is an sustainable market leadership coach, journalist, and publisher of As a speaker she describes the new emerging patterns of markets shaped by sustainable market leaders and the social networks they work with and employ.  As a coach, Lavinia works with all her clients to inspire professional development that assures a person the opportunity to embed sustainability as a leader into the network and culture of people they work with.



  Sarah P. wrote @

Yes! “Beyond Business as Usual.” Thanks for bringing attention to some of pharma’s big players in their push for sustainability.

  Lavinia Weissman (@WECareHealth) wrote @

Sarah, thanks for your cooperation and keen editorial eye. As you know many leaders, e.g. Mindy Lubber, Ceres, Jeffrey Hollender, American Sustainability Council, George Kell, UNGC speak about how sustainability is treading water and it can’t be business as usual.

I believe, the WorkEcology Portal being supported by our partner, EcoPoints.Asia from Hong Kong is going to break the barrier of access in offering briefings, custom content and research for organizations and communities. is an integral part of our knowledge base and remarkable first partner. Thanks to you and President, Janet M. Morgan.

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