Sanofi to bulldoze small-molecule plant it never used

With its pipeline being made up increasingly of biologic drugs, Sanofi will demolish a small-molecule clinical supply facility at its R&D site in Montpellier, France, that it never put into production.

With complex biologics making up a growing part of pipelines, drugmakers have been selling or closing small-molecule plants left and right. Sanofi is taking that process a couple of steps further. It will demolish a plant it spent about $118 million to build and never even used.

A Sanofi spokesperson confirmed Monday that the French drugmaker is preparing to put the wrecking ball to a plant at its R&D site in Montpellier, France. The facility was supposed to produce large batch APIs for clinical trials when envisioned in the early 2000s, but was no longer relevant when the €107 million ($118.5 million) “tool” was completed in 2011. It has set idle since.

“In the meantime, the company’s product portfolio had evolved towards a majority of biologics products rather than chemical products...” spokesperson Nicolas Kressmann said in an email. “Thus, the production requirements for chemical clinical batches had greatly decreased and the production of the DI50 was no longer necessary.”

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Kressman said the company looked into leasing, selling or reusing the pilot plant. “None of these solutions having been satisfactory,” so it was decided to demolish the facility and use the equipment in other parts of the Montpellier site.

Meanwhile, Sanofi has been expanding its biologics manufacturing capabilities but this time around it shares the risk and cost of plants with partners. In February, it announced it and Swiss CDMO Lonza would jointly build a €270 million ($286.3 million) plant at Lonza's site in Visp, Switzerland.

Before the partnership with Lonza, Sanofi transferred production of mAbs it was working on with its sometimes-partner Regeneron to a Boehringer Ingelheim plant in Germany.  At that time, Sanofi said 72% of its R&D projects involved biologics—nearly half of those being mAbs.

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It has been a similar story with a lot of the Big Pharma players. Roche, Merck & Co. and others have been selling and closing plants around the globe as they shift to more biologics production. 

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