Sanofi, a leader in global health care, just announced a new Global AI Centre of Excellence, located in Toronto. Focused on the power of data, analytics and AI, Toronto joins the likes of Boston, Paris, New York, and Barcelona in welcoming the company’s new digital hub.
We sat down with many of their team members, to talk about the company’s growth, why they chose Toronto, and what sort of talent they might be seeking. The full names and roles the team members we spoke to will be summarized at the end of the article.
Joyce Drohan is the Global Chief Data Officer of Sanofi. Joyce, can you describe Sanofi?
JD: Sanofi is an innovative global health care company that harnesses the miracles of science to make the impossible possible for our patients. We are always pushing the limits of research. We are excited to tap into the world class talent that Toronto has to offer as a leader in data and artificial intelligence to accelerate our quest for breakthrough medicines and vaccines.
Ziv, as a leader in academia in computational biology, why did you choose to continue your journey as the Data R&D leader at Sanofi?
ZBJ: The first thing that drove me to join Sanofi is the ability to see that your work translates to real cures and vaccines…[COVID-19] was a wake-up call for me. It demonstrated very clearly that pharma and biotech companies can really come together to save the world. The second major reason to join is the environment and the sense of joint goals in biotech and pharma. As for our new hub, Toronto has a long history of excellence in machine learning. Many of the leaders in this area call Toronto home. I am thus very excited about the opportunity to establish Sanofi’s AI CoE here and work with the many talented individuals to improve the way we study drugs and vaccines.
Joyce, you have an existing network of Global Digital Hubs – why did you choose to build an AI focused one here in Toronto?
JD: Toronto has been a home to me for over 30 years as a Canadian and a Torontonian. When I saw the opportunity to showcase its talent on the global stage, I knew I would be making the right decision in establishing a footprint here and supporting the incredible talent we have in bridging the gap from academia to industry application in AI. Dimitrije Jankovic our Global Head of Data Programs can attest to the talent we have already found here.
Dimitrije, over to you!
DJ: Yes, the talent in Toronto has already energized the Global AI Centre of Excellence. Since the beginning of 2022, we have grown to a team of approximately 50 data engineers, product owners, data scientists, program managers and more. Every member of our team has propelled us forward by sharing their experiences in industry and academia to bring creative ways to accelerate the development of novel data and AI products.
Nitesh, you were among the first few of the approximately 50 people now working in Sanofi’s new space in Downtown Toronto, why is now an exciting time to join the team?
NS: Sanofi is going through a massive and rapid digital transformation and there can’t be a better time for data and AI enthusiasts to join us as we, in tandem with industry leaders, improve millions of lives all over the world. I spent a decade as a research
Brandon, you joined the team from a startup. Why is now an exciting time to join the team?
BR: As Nitesh mentioned, Sanofi is undergoing a digital transformation. Being able to be a part of this digital transformation of this scale is an opportunity that does not present itself often. Before Sanofi, I led the end-to-end development of a software product at a biotech startup company. During the interview for my role as a Data Scientist, I expressed that I wanted my voice to be heard and I wanted the work I performed to move the needle. Both of my wishes were fulfilled! I actively participate in the development of digital products, and I am always thinking about how I can scale these products across the globe.
Pranav as a Data Engineer, what are you working on right now?
PR: I am developing an AI platform with a leading-edge technology stack that enables Sanofi associates to extract useful insights and recommendations for their day-to-day work. This is an inspiring undertaking because it has potential to impact the entire pharmaceutical value chain, from research through to getting critical medicine in the hands of patients. My work alleviates the strain of managing, monitoring, and maintaining AI models to ensure our focus on responsible AI. This allows subject matter experts to focus on driving innovation and advancing patient outcomes at scale.
Yun, you are a Data Scientist at Sanofi. What projects are you working on?
YN: Building off patient outcomes, I am working on an exciting machine learning project with the goal to group patients with similar characteristics and analyze their co-morbidities to identify diseases that have similar underlying mechanisms. We are thus able to identify previously untapped linkages between therapeutic targets and diseases to pursue breakthrough innovations.
Wow sounds great. Faisal, as a Data Strategy and Operation Analyst how do you contribute to work done as part of this new team in Downtown Toronto?
FR: I empower teams like Yun’s and Pranav’s to deliver value to our customers sooner by advancing the Agile mindset. This includes creating a playbook for our internal teams to reference and encouraging our teams to adopt Agile best practices so we can continue to work efficiently, and experiment rapidly.
What a great team! Dimitrije, what sort of competencies are you hiring for in Toronto?
DJ: We are hiring for a variety of roles in data science, data management, data architecture, computational biology, AI strategy, and product management. We are looking for people who possess Sanofi’s DNA. Sanofians are passionate, curious individuals who challenge the status quo, empower others, enjoy collaboration, and are determined to grow from their past experiences, making a difference in healthcare. If that sounds like you, take a look at this and apply!
Yasmin, as global program manager you are helping to build the team here in Toronto, will there be an opportunity for university co-op students or fresh graduates to apply?
YZ: Absolutely, we’ve recently hired 7 co-op students who all bring valued and diverse business and technical skill sets from various Universities in Ontario. Within their first month, they had the opportunity to collaborate in a “hackathon” style event and develop an end-to-end product to improve our internal operations. We also place an important emphasis on early career talent recruitment, as there is so much great mentorship and room to grow given that we are a rapidly scaling team.
Let’s hear from some of your more recent hires. Jamie, what has your experience as an intern with Sanofi?
JS: Within my first month at Sanofi, I was immediately welcomed with open arms, empowered to have a voice, and encouraged to ask questions, challenge processes and provide input. Sanofi heavily values its interns and ensures that they have the essential tools to be successful by providing mentorship, appropriate upskilling, and early participation in impactful projects.
What about you Ama? As a new graduate who started as a Data Strategy and Operations Analyst a month ago, how has your experience been like?
AS: As someone who is just starting my career, I was looking for an environment where I would be encouraged to grow and learn new things. Sanofi’s Global AI Center of Excellence is the perfect place to do so. As a Data Strategy and Operations Analyst, I am constantly presented with new opportunities to learn, and the best part is that my team members are always cheering me on.
Having a support system sounds amazing! Yasmin, tell us more about the culture at Sanofi; what can potential employees look forward to?
YZ: Beyond the support, numerous advantages, and our unique WeWork space in Downtown Toronto, the culture itself is activating and empowers diversity in thought. Regardless of your background or level, you have a chance to explore and make a real impact in the footprint of the company, as we are all operating on a global team that reaches patients across 90+ countries. As one of the first few employees at the Centre of Excellence, I can attest that each new hire has a real opportunity to bring forth new ideas that influence and enhance the culture of our team.
Joyce, we will end with you. How can interested applicants get in touch?
JD: If you want to work on exciting projects and have a passion for data, you can find information to apply on our careers page! This is an exciting time for Sanofi and for Canada as we come to together to form a top tier Global AI Centre of excellence. We want to share this excitement with bright individuals ready to create a positive change in millions of lives.
It’s a great time to join Sanofi and be a part of their Canadian journey. Check out their careers page to find out if you might be a good fit for their growing team!
The following Sanofi team members were interviewed for this article:
- Joyce Drohan – Global Chief Data Officer
- Ziv Bar Joseph – Head of R&D Data and Computational Sciences
- Dimitrije Jankovic – Head of Data Programs
- Nitesh Soni – Data Science Commercial Leader
- Brandon Rufino – Data Scientist
- Pranav Rawal – Data Engineer
- Yun Niu – Data Scientist
- Faisal Rajan – Analyst, Data Strategy and Operations
- Yasmin Zaimi – Global Program Manager, Data and AI Strategy
- Jamie Stein – Analyst, Data and AI Strategy Co-op
- Ama Simons – Analyst, Data Strategy and Operations