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On the latest episode of Leadership Next, Fortune’s podcast about the changing role of business leadership, Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson tells cohosts Alan Murray and Ellen McGirt that he thinks it’s a great time to be a CEO. Despite the turmoil corporations have been thrust into in 2020, from navigating the coronavirus pandemic to trying to weather its subsequent economic downturn, Hudson says there is a great honor in heading a company in this era.
“I’m privileged to be leading an organization that has got 10,000 people in our vaccines group who are right now working seven days a week to try and bring something to help the entire planet,” he says. “How could I not feel the responsibility and privilege of that?”
The French pharmaceuticals company has two vaccine candidates for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus that has attacked millions around the world. Hudson, who has been CEO for just over a year, says that the company’s long history of producing huge numbers of vaccines for everything from polio to influenza each year has positioned it to innovate with efficiency. But he’s not going to be upset if Sanofi loses the race to a vaccine, he says, because the world needs one as soon as possible.
That good-natured outlook isn’t typical in Big Pharma, Murray points out around the 7:15 mark, but the pandemic has encouraged the industry to work together in a way no one has seen in modern history. And Hudson thinks it’s going to stick around even after a COVID-19 vaccine is approved and distributed, as the pharmaceuticals industry returns to tackling treatments for diseases like Parkinson’s and early-stage breast cancer. And while competition spurs innovation, cooperation could lead to even bigger breakthroughs in the world of medicine.
“How we’re changing the way we work in our company and the things that we’ll want to keep after the crisis is the same as the work outside of our company with our partners, other companies, stakeholders,” he said. “I think the collaborative spirit will stay.”