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Gary J. Nabel, new chief scientific officer for Sanofi, will be based in Cambridge

French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi SA, which bought Genzyme Corp. in 2011, said Wednesday that its new chief scientific officer is Gary J. Nabel, a medical doctor with ties to Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Nabel’s appointment takes effect Dec. 3, and he will be based in Cambridge, Sanofi said. Nabel will report to Dr. Elias Zerhouni, Sanofi’s president for global research and development.

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Since buying Genzyme for $20.1 billion, Sanofi has looked to make the Boston area its top US research hub.

Nabel joins Sanofi from the National Institutes of Health, where he served as director of the Vaccine Research Center. Nabel has degrees from Harvard, including a Ph.D. and a medical degree. He served as a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of David Baltimore at MIT’s Whitehead Institute, according to Sanofi’s press release.

“In his new position, Dr. Nabel will be responsible for assessing and coordinating Sanofi’s scientific direction for biopharmaceuticals, vaccines, and animal health with a focus on improving translational approaches across Sanofi,” the Sanofi release said.

In March, Sanofi chief executive Christopher A. Viehbacher addressed the Boston College Chief Executives’ Club.

Sanofi is using its newly expanded presence in the Boston area to pioneer a research model that relies more on partnerships with outside innovators and less on its in-house efforts, Viebacher said then. Greater Boston’s focus on innovation makes it a perfect location to collaborate on drug development with academic researchers and biotech start-ups, he added.

Chris Reidy can be reached at
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