Sanofi CEO vows to 'go beyond' handouts, hit double-digit growth in Africa

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Sanofi CEO Chris Viehbacher

Just days after GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) announced it would open a new R&D lab and invest more than $200 million in Africa, Sanofi ($SNY) CEO Chris Viehbacher is affirming his country's devotion to Africa, too. Sanofi, which brought in more than €1 billion ($1.4 billion) in sales in Africa last year, is predicting double-digit growth there this year, Viehbacher told Reuters on Wednesday.

Viehbacher pointed out that Sanofi had recently opened plants in Algeria, Morocco and South Africa to supply those areas with affordable drugs to treat malaria and HIV. He added that the company is also pursuing initiatives in neurological disorders such as epilepsy and depression.

In 2013, Sanofi formed three collaborations with the Moroccan government. Two are aimed at training doctors and developing new treatment facilities focused on Type 1 diabetes, mental disorders and epilepsy. The third will train regulatory technicians and managers in Africa's burgeoning pharma industry.

Viehbacher's comments came during a conference on neglected tropical diseases at the Institut Pasteur in Paris. During the meeting, several charitable groups--including the Children's Investment Fund Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation--pledged $240 million in new funding to treat neglected tropical diseases.

Sanofi is part of an alliance of drug companies and public groups that have donated billions of dollars worth of drugs to control tropical diseases in Africa and other countries, but Viehbacher said during the meeting that the industry was devoted to working on new drugs and diagnostics that "go beyond" donations, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The African drug market is growing 10% a year and is expected to hit $45 billion by 2020, making it one of the industry's hottest geographical targets. On Monday, GSK CEO Andrew Witty announced his company was opening an "R&D Open Lab" in Africa, where scientists would be given resources to study non-communicable diseases. Viehbacher clearly didn't want the news to shadow Sanofi's Africa initiatives, though. "It's good that other companies discover Africa," he joked in the Reuters interview. "Sanofi is well ahead of all its rivals there."

- here's the Reuters story
- read the WSJ blog item (sub. req.)

Special Reports: Top 10 drugmakers in emerging markets - Sanofi - GSK

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Editor's note: A photo caption in an earlier version of this story misidentified Chris Viehbacher. He is the CEO of Sanofi.