Sanofi starts up dengue vaccine plant to maintain edge over Takeda

Dengue fever now poses a bigger global threat than ever before. The main mosquito that carries the virus has spread throughout countries with tropical climates and has reappeared in the U.S. and Europe too. And as it stands, health authorities are powerless to protect people.

When Sanofi ($SNY) began developing a dengue fever vaccine 20 years ago, the virus was still a relatively minor threat. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported 295,000 cases a year, on average, in the 1980s. By the 21st century, the figure had soared to almost 970,000 cases a year. Sanofi is now nearing the end of development and--despite reporting disappointing results in September--is already preparing its production plant for an anticipated commercial launch in 2015.

The early start to manufacturing reflects the time lag involved in making a dengue fever vaccine. "Production time is rather long, it takes two years to produce this vaccine. It was decided in 2009 to gain time to be ready to launch it in the market as soon as possible," Anthony Quin, who leads Sanofi's dengue fever vaccine manufacturing plant, told Reuters. Sanofi began preparing for the launch of the shot back in 2009 when it committed €350 million ($457 million) to build the plant in France.

Since then dengue fever has continued to spread--and the race to bring a vaccine to market has heated up. In May, Japan's Takeda paid $35 million up front to buy Colorado-based Inviragen. The U.S. biotech has advanced its dengue fever vaccine into Phase II, putting it just behind Sanofi in development. By beginning manufacturing preparations early, Sanofi is aiming to prevent delays that could eat into its first-to-market advantage. With blockbuster sales predicted, the head start is potentially very lucrative for Sanofi.

- here's the Reuters article
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