Sanofi offers retirement scheme to hundreds of staffers at 2 Indian vaccine plants

Hundreds of manufacturing jobs are in limbo as Sanofi weighs operations at a pair of vaccine plants overseas, marking the latest in an onslaught of job cuts across the industry.

Citing the evolution of local and global healthcare fields during the COVID-19 pandemic, a spokesperson for Sanofi in India told Fierce Pharma that “some activities” at its Medchal and Muppireddypally sites near the city of Hyderabad “are no longer viable.”

As a result, Sanofi is offering a voluntary retirement scheme to all staffers at the production facilities.

The move could affect some 800 workers, Reuters first reported, citing two sources close to the matter. The sites in question make vaccines against hepatitis B, diphtheria and tetanus and also have packaging facilities for insulin, according to the news service.

“We are fully committed to supporting our employees as we work through the details,” Sanofi’s spokesperson in India said.

Sanofi says online that it employs around 5,000 people in India, where the company operates a formulations development center in Goa, plus two former Shantha Biotechnics manufacturing facilities in Hyderabad that produce and pack insulins and vaccines.

Sanofi’s spokesperson told Fierce Pharma “there is no plan to sell any asset at this stage,” though Reuters’ sources said a sale could potentially come later. Further, Sanofi is “currently still producing several products in these two sites as we have ongoing commitments,” the company’s spokesperson said.

Sanofi operates the facilities via its Sanofi Healthcare India arm, which was formerly known as Shantha Biotechnics. Sanofi threw down 550 million euros (then around $784 million) for the Indian company way back in 2009, as Fierce Biotech reported at the time.

Back then, the purchase was billed as a move by former CEO Chris Viehbacher—now helming the ship over at Biogen—to aggressively grow Sanofi’s vaccine business.

But as the industry swelled during the COVID-19 pandemic, “new pharmaceutical manufacturers have established themselves and increased the overall supply capacity for both vaccines and medicines,” Sanofi’s spokesperson in India explained.

Sanofi has introduced its voluntary retirement scheme amid a spate of biopharma layoffs. Already this week, Amgen confirmed it’s cutting around 300 jobs in the U.S.—mainly along commercial roles—as the company navigates “industry headwinds.”

Also in January, antibody-drug conjugate CDMO Abzena laid off 66 employees in San Diego.

And, just a few weeks before that, Novartis pruned 285 jobs across three sites in New Jersey.

The problem has been even more severe among smaller biotechs, where Fierce Biotech counted 119 rounds of job cuts throughout 2022.