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Sanofi CEO: We're 'fully committed' to making successful COVID-19 vaccine

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Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson joins Yahoo Finance’s Anjalee Khemlani to discuss the company’s COVID-19 vaccine efforts.

Video Transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING]

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Welcome back to "Yahoo Finance Live." I'm Anjalee Khemlani, and I have the pleasure of introducing the CEO of Sanofi, Paul Hudson, to discuss his efforts in the COVID vaccine race, as well as new information about the efforts in oncology. Really a new focus for the company since you've taken over, Paul. Really a pleasure to have you join us. So let's start off there. You've got the announcement from your oral treatment early look at the results for certain types of breast cancer and how that's going to really be beneficial for the company. Let's talk about why it's a good strategy in the past for you to shift the focus away from diabetes and cardiovascular into oncology and other rare diseases.

PAUL HUDSON: Well, thanks, Anjalee, and it's great to be here and thank you for the question. We're really turning a corner with momentum in oncology here at Sanofi. In the past couple of years, we've actually trebled the number of medicines we have in the late stage from five to 17. I think people forget sometimes that we're still losing tragically 10 million people a year from cancer. The company today at ASCO has been able to share some really exciting data about what we might be able to do to help women with the specific breast cancer, which is the majority, with a drug called amcenestrant. We think it could provide significant relief and opportunity over the long term. We've been proud to share that data today.

On top of it, by the way, we also shared in our immuno-oncology pipeline, how we're going to bring forward in head and neck cancer, in skin cancer, and in lung cancer what could be the new foundation. So we're making tons of progress. And ASCO's a very important meeting for us.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Absolutely. And last year you announced the partnership with MD Anderson. This year you're announcing that partnership with Brussels-based Breast International Group. How are all these partnerships helping to not only validate, but also enhance your efforts and really push the pipeline forward?

PAUL HUDSON: You know, we're a tremendous company and we have incredible scientists, but we also have to accept we have to be open to some of the breakthroughs that are happening in critical places in academic institutions across the world. And we're trying to blend our own science and do great partnerships, put those things together at the same time, and just do something that could perhaps change the practice of medicine. We're very open-minded to collaboration. We've announced four M&A deals over the last year, six BD deals. We're really just open to have great partnerships all advance science. And our team are up it, ready for it, anything that will move us on in the treatment of cancer.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Absolutely. Looking at you know your traditional pipeline, vaccines continue to play a big role, especially during this pandemic. I know that the company is working on two vaccines, one with GlaxoSmithKline, the other with Translate Bio using that new mRNA platform, which is, of course, very exciting. But let's look at the race as it stands. I know in the past year you've said that even though the company is later in coming out with its vaccine, you still see the need for it. Considering this time last year, we all thought AstraZeneca was going to be the global vaccine, and some others would come out as well. The situation has kind of changed. Does that change what you see as the potential market for the vaccine?

PAUL HUDSON: You know, we've been from the very beginning saying, what can we do to help. And we're all in. We're a 100-year-old vaccine company. We wanted to bring our best game. And we knew that it would be a changing landscape over the following 12 months. We'll play our part in quarter four this year. We've got great phase two data, we're into phase three, we hope to provide additional data that we're going to be a great boost, a great third shot for everybody that needs it as we get closer into 2022. So we're fully committed to doing that.

And outside of that, you mentioned our mRNA platform. Now we'll get data in quarter three this year, but even more importantly, it's going to tell us and teach us how big this platform could be for us, where else we can go to treat different diseases with vaccines. So no, we're right in the thick of it. You never know what's going to happen. We kept going and we're really pleased that we did, and a lot of people are thanking us for that.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Well, let's talk about that mRNA, because I know that other companies, like Pfizer and Moderna, that have been using it for the COVID vaccine, have said that they're already targeting flu and others with the same platform. Where do you see the opportunity? What do you see as a potential use as well?

PAUL HUDSON: You know, we'll take our own mRNA into flu. We're one of the world's leading, if not the leading influenza company. There's a higher efficacy bar and safety bar already set in flu. So we're going to play a part either way if mRNA works great, but if not, we're really going to be out there with incredible vaccines already. I think the real frontier will be beyond that into untreatable diseases where vaccines haven't gone yet. And I think that's what we're going to learn about our platform later this year. And that understanding and learning will carry forward into R&D to try and break new ground and what people expect of us.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Fair enough. Let's look back at that vaccine though just for a second. I know that ongoing is this discussion about the patent waivers and how to get more vaccine out into the global community. I know that you use the argument of not being able to catch up with capacity, and it really is just a long-term, the industry has talked about how it's a long-term effort if you do, in fact, share the recipe. But considering you're not at market yet, does the timeline change for you?

PAUL HUDSON: You know, I think we have to be really honest what we're trying to solve for. What we're all focused on. I can tell you, my peers, myself, regulators, everybody is trying to make sure we get vaccines for the entire world. That's a fact. That's our responsibility. The discussion about IP is not going to accelerate that, let's also be clear. So we're all in on making as many doses as we can, like everybody else, to make sure that we can get across the world.

And if we're successful in bringing our vaccine forward, remember, it's normal refrigerator storage temperature. So perhaps we'll play a part in some of those places where they don't have the cold chain. So we're going to be there. The IP discussion simply doesn't change that. What matters most is getting as many vaccines as possible to the entire world, and we're focused on that.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Getting vaccines to the rest of the world also plays into another topic really hot here in the US, and that's health equity. Drug pricing has once again come to the forefront. I just wonder from your perspective, being a French company as well as engaging largely with the US government, how do you see beyond the value-add argument, how do you see the topic of drug pricing playing into health equity right now?

PAUL HUDSON: You know, I think a really important question we have to ask ourselves every day is, what is it like when you walk into a pharmacy to get an important medicine and then you look at the copay you have to pay, you're reaching into your pocket, you're making choices over your groceries or your mobile phone bill or paying your copay, that's where the effort should be.

That's where between us, the administration, the PBMs, the Pharmacy Benefit Managers, that's where coming together gives us a real shot to make any types of adjustments right where the patient needs it most, where our energy goes in making sure you feel it in your pocket positively, that's where the effort should be. And we support any initiative that helps patients. I mean, it's why we're in the business that we're in.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Absolutely. Well, let's keep an eye on how that all plays out. The CEO of Sanofi, Paul Hudson, thank you so much for joining us today.