Sanofi turns to Boehringer Ingelheim to beef up its biologics production

Sanofi ($SNY) and Regeneron ($REGN) are hard at work on a number of promising monoclonal antibodies (mAbs), but Sanofi needs more manufacturing capacity to produce them. Instead of building its own like some of its peers, the French company has struck a deal to tap into a Boehringer Ingelheim plant in Germany.

Sanofi said today that early this year it will begin transferring and manufacturing mAbs at Boehringer Ingelheim's operation in Biberach an der Riss, Germany.

Sanofi SVP Wolfram Carius

"Boehringer Ingelheim is a highly capable and experienced partner to complement our continued alliance with Regeneron and the investments we are making in building our own internal capabilities as we prepare for a wave of potential new product launches in the coming years," Wolfram Carius, Sanofi senior vice president of biologics, said in a statement.

Among the mAb therapies Sanofi and Regeneron are developing is alirocumab, a next-generation cholesterol drug that's expected to debut this year and which is expected to hit peak sales of $1 billion. The drug will contend with offerings from Amgen ($AMGN) and Pfizer ($PFE) in the the nascent market of cutting bad cholesterol by blocking a gene called PCSK9. Behind that is sarilumab, a rheumatoid arthritis treatment that works by halting the IL-6 receptor to fight the inflammation. They also are working on dupilumab, an IL-4 and IL-13 antibody that in early studies beat back eczema and which Regeneron is also studying for treating asthma and nasal polyps.

Biologics are making up a growing piece of the pipelines at many drugmakers, which has led to a significant expansion of biologics manufacturing in the last several years. In quick succession last fall, Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY), Amgen and AstraZeneca ($AZN) all announced projects to expand biologics capacity. In 2013, Swiss drugmaker Roche ($RHHBY) started in on a multipronged $882 million effort to build a new biologics facility in Switzerland and expand plants in the U.S. and Germany.

- here's the Sanofi announcement

Special Reports: 10 top drugs in biopharma's late-stage pipeline - Alirocumab | The 10 best-selling drugs of 2013