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Sanofi set to open largest manufacturing unit in India

BS Reporter  |  Hyderabad 

French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur, which acquired City-based Shantha Biotechnics for Rs 3,000 crore in 2009, will soon unveil its largest manufacturing asset here.

It said the Rs 500-crore state-of-the-art vaccine manufacturing facility, stated to be Asia’s biggest, was in the final stages of completion. Setting up the facility in India is a part of the company’s plan to realise 40 per cent of its sales from emerging markets by 2015, compared to 29 per cent at present. Sanofi is the vaccines division of the Sanofi-Aventis group.

Sanofi chief executive officer Christopher A Viehbacher said India was one of the company’s important strategic destinations, both as a market and an affordable medicine manufacturing opportunity. “I have brought five of the nine executive committee members to India to study the opportunities here,” he said.

The facility is expected to partly commence operations by March and become fully operational by October. Though the company started work on the project as soon as it acquired Shantha, issues related to land allotted by the government took almost a year-and-a-half before the construction began in full steam.

“I am excited to have acquired Shantha, as it has a number of vaccines in the pipeline that Sanofi does not,” he said. Sanofi has spent $300 million on expanding its capacities through Shantha, according to him.

The facility is expected to provide significant leverage for Sanofi, the world’s largest player in the vaccine space in terms of affordable production. Vaccines are among the six growth platforms identified by the company. The other five are diabetes solutions, consumer healthcare, emerging markets, innovative products and animal healthcare.

According to him, Sanofi is keen on affordable medicines, though not out of profitability considerations. He ruled out the possibility of entering into pure generics. On the acquisition front, he said the company was open to such opportunities if a suitable candidate was out there.

On drug innovations, he said big pharma were not doing much, compared with relatively smaller firms, as it required an element of disruptive thinking. “Those who proved productive in innovation have spent only half of what big have spent,” he said, adding a fundamental change in the thinking of big had also taken place in this respect.

He allayed apprehensions about quality issues in wake of the World Health Organisation’s reservations over the five-in-one vaccine, Shan-5, produced at Shantha Biotech. He said all facilities of Sanofi were of global standards and there would be no compromise on quality and safety irrespective of their location.

“We have implemented all the corrective measures. And, we are quite positive about the relationship with Shantha and will be participating in global tenders once the pre-qualification process is completed for low-cost and high-quality vaccines,” he said.

Sanofi’s cholera and tetanus vaccines were pre-qualified by WHO last week, according to him. In the next four years, Sanofi expects 30 per cent of its total sales to come from the US, 33 per cent from Europe and the rest from emerging markets.

First Published: Thu, October 06 2011. 00:39 IST