Head of Clinical Supply Chain Operations at Sanofi
Sanofi is a one-of-a-kind pharmaceutical company for the modern age. Self-described as ‘pushing the frontiers of science’ and ‘chasing miracles’, the 100,000-plus employee company delivers ‘life-changing treatments and life-saving vaccines’ to patients around the globe.
The man in charge of the entire strategic sourcing and shipping process for the pharma company is Arnaud Dourlens, Head of Clinical Supply Chain Operations, who also oversees worldwide trial supply.
At heart, though, Dourlens is an engineer. He began his career in the FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) industry, working for giants Procter & Gamble. Later, he moved into the luxury sector – the domain of beauty powerhouses such as perfume and cosmetics’ leader Christian Dior.
“For more than 10 years, I worked across operations, the supply chain, new product launches, and industrialisation – first in the makeup area and then in every cosmetic area, meaning makeup, fragrances and skincare,” outlines Dourlens.
In 2017, he switched to Sanofi as Production Director and embraced the pharmaceutical environment. During this period, Dourlens was based at the Compiègne site, in Northern France.
The pharmaceutical supply chain
“It’s quite a strategic site here,” says Dourlens. “I've been playing an instrumental role with the team on site improvement and transformation to be fit for the future.”
Dourlens joined Sanofi because he was interested in the pharmaceutical environment and had experience in demanding, high-added-value environments. Furthermore, he believes that the clinical trial supply chain can be a source of value for patients and the healthcare sector.
“When a patient is suffering from a disease, they are in a tough situation and clinical trials are an option of care for them,” explains Dourlens.
Behind the clinical trial, there are a lot of activities occurring around defining a protocol, defining the way in which the study will be carried out, and the way that the data will be managed.
“But, at the end of the day, the two main things that the patient will see when they are included in a clinical trial will be the investigator and the physician that will take care of them. This is somebody who is from a hospital – not somebody from Sanofi,” said Dourlens.
Yet, the treatment that the patient will get – when they receive a box of drugs or a vaccine designed to either save or vastly improve their life – is all they will see from Sanofi. And it’s Dourlens’ job to get the drug to the patient on time, whatever the situation.
Supporting the global clinical supply chain
Clinical trials exist within a complex landscape due to the varying regulatory complexity of each individual country. Depending on the design of the trial, Dourlens may have different requirements to meet, such as importation and exportation rules. From a regulatory perspective, the number of changes in the worldwide environment is huge.
“To make a long story short, regulatory complexity and varied trial design is a big challenge. Digital healthcare is a great help in making sure that we are within these constraints in the right way,” says Dourlens.
From an integration and cost-optimisation viewpoint, digital healthcare is also important. Today, nobody is able to run a full supplier clinical trial, end-to-end, without any partners.
“When we start speaking of partners, we start speaking of making interfaces, and when we speak about interfaces, we speak about exchanging data. The level of platform integration thanks to digital development is also a key level. If you have a nice digital ecosystem internally but you don't have any connection with all the players that are contributing across your value chain, you are not fully leveraging the efficiency of your digital system,” he says.
To perform in the global clinical supply chain, there are some core activities that are definitely part of the internal expertise of Sanofi: optimising the design of the trial from a supply perspective, the logistics setup, packaging design and, ultimately, the needs of the patient.
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