Following nearly a decade with McKinsey & Co. and another four years leading international strategy at the University of Oxford, it was the opportunity to work with “really smart people trying to solve really hard problems” that prompted Montreal-born Heather Bell’s leap to pharma. She finds Sanofi’s achievements developing vaccines, insulin, antihistamines, and a rare disease model highly motivating.
Sanofi has outlined seven digital priorities representing the entire value chain: digital clinical trials; the factory of the future; multichannel physician engagement; consumer precision marketing and e-commerce; real-world analytics; drugs plus solutions; and integrated diabetes care.
In addition to leading two specific priorities, Bell is responsible for ensuring global alignment and collaboration across all initiatives. Clinical trial innovation requires partnership between a team of digital disruptors and colleagues in clinical operations around the globe. “It’s one thing to do this in the U.S. and another around the world,” says Bell, who adds online trial recruitment is now available in 16 countries.
Bell’s work also requires external collaboration. Onduo, Sanofi’s joint venture with Verily, aims to be a virtual diabetes clinic, bringing together therapeutics, devices, exercise plans, coaches, and endocrinologists to support people living with diabetes. The product has been launched in the U.S. with a limited number of payers, with the long-range goal of driving profit from an integrated solution.
Moving mountains starts with people, and Bell is quick to note Sanofi has recruited talent from General Electric, Procter & Gamble, and Amazon. To equip the broader team to operate in this new universe, Sanofi builds out capabilities in advance through digital bootcamps. Bell responds to a range of reactions — from “I am so fired up, sign me up” to “help me understand why this matters” — but for the most part, colleagues are neutral and optimistic.
Success also hinges on understanding behaviors and motivations of stakeholders, from patients to physicians to the people on the factory floor, and this is part of the premise of the drugs plus team. “Tech alone is never the answer,” Bell says.