Indian newspapers are abuzz with Sanofi's ($SNY) vaccine play in that country. On a tour there, CEO Chris Viehbacher (photo) touted Sanofi's $300 million investment in a "state-of-the-art" manufacturing plant to be operated by the French company's Shantha Biotechnics unit. The facility is said to be Asia's biggest vaccine plant, and it's not only intended to supply India, but to deliver affordable production for global markets as well.
The plant is expected to start operating in March 2012 and ramp up fully by October. It's been a long time coming; Sanofi started working on the project when it bought Shantha in 2009, but a government land-allotment snarl held up construction for almost 18 months, the Business Standard reports.
Running Shantha hasn't been without other setbacks. Last year, the World Health Organization called for a broad recall of Shan5, the company's 5-in-one shot, after sediment was found in the vaccine. "We have cracked the manufacturing difficulties and are now getting into the process to do clinical trials on Shan5," Viehbacher said during a meeting with Indian reporters. Shantha hopes to get WHO pre-qualification for the shot soon, he added. In fact, the company's cholera vaccine Shanchol won the WHO designation just last week.
"In Shantha, we have a low-cost, high-quality platform for vaccines that are not just for India but for the world," Viehbacher said. Sanofi aims to build its Indian business further, whether organically or through acquisitions, he said. "Our objective is to have a strong growing business," he said. "Whatever helps in that, is what we will look for."