Sanofi-Aventis has unveiled its new R&D model which will see the firm close eight of its 27 facilities to improve productivity.

Revealing the plans, chief executive Chris Viehbacher said that the objective of the new model “is to propose innovative solutions that respond to specific, unmet needs of patients and continue our success in a very competitive international environment”. The moves will involve “the development of scientific networks and openness toward outside entities to strengthen creativity, and a flexible and entrepreneurial approach to research”, he added.

The French drugmaker claimed that the “rapid evolution of the scientific environment, which is bringing about a veritable revolution in biopharmaceutical research, namely in biology, has generated a profound and continuous change in the pharmaceutical environment”. In order to deal with this shift, Sanofi intends to “set in place the most effective R&D organisation in the pharmaceutical industry by 2013.

Head of R&D, Marc Cluzel, said that “we are living through radical times of change for research,” so “we need to change our approach to the patient, make use of novel technologies and create new concepts”. He went on to claim that “tomorrow’s research will be carried out through networks” and “we will be open to knowledge from outside sources, becoming a key partner”. Dr Cluzel concluded by saying that “we need to reinvent R&D.”

One part of this will be to group researchers in more productive structures and strengthen “exploratory structures” that work with outside entities, Sanofi said. It will also deploy reactive “entrepreneurial units” to encourage the emergence of innovation and accelerate the marketing of innovative products.

Sanofi claimed that the initiative will not involve any layoffs but a plan for voluntary departures “is being considered” that will comprise “a mechanism for anticipated work departures fully financed by the company”.

Specifically, Sanofi is closing four sites in France, and looking to divest another one, while facilities in Japan, the USA, the UK and Spain will be shut. More details will be unveiled when the company presents second-quarter results on July 29.