The investment will be used to install biotechnology manufacturing capacity at the plant which at present is used to produce Sanofi’s oncology, cardiovascular, anti-infectives and anti-inflammatories some of which are due to go off-patent in the next few years.
The core focus of the Biolaunch project is to develop a cell culture platform, R&D and manufacturing centre which, when fully operational in 2012, Sanofi will use to develop and manufacture monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) and biologics.
Sanofi CEO Christopher Viebacher said the project will create “a complete platform of expertise in biotechnologies,” adding that “monoclonal antibodies will open the way to a new generation of better targeted and more effective treatments with fewer side effects.”
He added that Biolanuch is “an opportunity for the company to do partnerships with biotechnology and research companies," explaining that such “collaborations can provide us with new products."
Sanofi’s focus on partnerships to bolster its pipelines, exemplified by its recent deal with Oxford Biomedica on eye disease, is not unusual among Big Pharma firms desperate to both cut costs and boost flagging pipelines.
Biolanuch will also include a training program to help with new biotech business activities that comprises special modules for both theory and practice, with participants gaining a “Biolanuch passport” syllabus.
Replenish product pipelines with biotech drugs
Last week, Viebacher announced a major reorganisation of the firm’s development pipeline that saw it cull 14 candidate drugs, including four that were in Phase III clinical trials.
At the time he said that said that Sanofi will shift its focus away from traditional drugs and “aim to increase the percentage of biotech products in its pipeline from 14 to 25 per cent over the next three years.”
Prior to that Sanofi demonstrated its commitment to expanding its biotechnology portfolio through the acquisition of Califorina, US based cancer drug specialist BiPar for $500m.