What are Alphabet’s Life Sciences division up to with French firm Sanofi?
This is one of those deals where there is a sensible short-term explanation and a far cooler long-term possibility. Because good things come to those who wait, we are going to deal with what’s known and these ‘facts’ I hear people talk about first, and then wildly speculate later on.
Sanofi are in a spot of bother at the moment. First of all, their name is the first half of an insult delivered in a thick Euro accent. Whaddya mean? Who are you calling a Sanofi b*tch? This is amusing. Secondly their banker diabetes drug, Lantus, is being replaced by cheaper biosimilars and that means it needs to get aggressive in its restructuring efforts to counter that slump in revenue.
Bloomberg covers this in more detail, but the important parts are that Sanofi is responding with new products, a marketing spend to help them differentiate Lantus from its rivals and thus recover some market share, and finally through making new strategic alliances with other companies.
Hence this deal with Verily, part of the Alphabet stable, that is valued at $500m. Of that, Sanofi is putting in $248m in cash and Verily – apparently – a similar amount in an unspecified form. Unspecified, eh? Whatever could that mean? Well they have issued a statement in which they name their venture (they went with Onduo) and declare that they will mix devices, software and medicine. Devices, eh? The plot thickens. Any kind of devices in particular? Why yes! Miniaturized electronics. A-ha! I think we all know what that means.
No? It means nanobots.
Nanobots are the wild speculation here. Verily has being going long on nanobots for some time now and nothing much has been heard about their Verb Surgical venture. But monitoring insulin levels from within the bloodstream would be a very funky use for nanobots and would be the kind of relatively simple task that this young technology could be well suited to.
Of course, nothing to do with nanobots has been spoken about in any categorical way, but ‘miniaturized electronics’ is a legitimate reason to speculate that this is where these guys are going. Sanofi gives Verily $248m to help with their research and Verily shares the progress they have made so far, which may well be the ‘unspecified’ value that they are bringing to the table. It would also tie in with Sanofi’s stated goal of distinguishing their products from the competition. This would be one hell of a way to achieve that.