Sanofi and Lonza partner on a €270M biologics plant that will employ 200

Work on the initial phase of a new biologics plant will begin this year at Lonza's site in Visp, Switzerland.

Sanofi and Swiss contractor Lonza will share the cost of building a €270 million ($286.3 million) plant as Sanofi again turns to a partner to help carry the financial burden of expanding capacity for new biologic meds.

The plant, which is expected to employ 200, will be built at Lonza's site in Visp, Switzerland. Work on the initial phase will start this year and is slated to be complete at the end of 2019 and operational in 2020.

Philippe Luscan, Sanofi’s executive VP of Global Industrial Affairs, said Sanofi needs the extra capacity because 60% of the French drugmaker’s pipeline is made of biologics, including monoclonal antibodies.

“In addition to the investments we are making in building our own internal production capabilities, the joint venture between Sanofi and Lonza emphasizes our commitment to provide access for patients to high quality therapeutic monoclonal antibodies,” Luscan said in a statement.

Under the deal, Lonza will build the new facility at its Visp site, where it currently employs 2,700,  and the two will jointly operate it. Lonza has previously built three other biologics plants, including in the U.S. and one in Singapore. Lonza will be able to use its half of the capacity for products for other companies, if it is not needed to do work for Sanofi. Also, if any of Sanofi’s capacity is not being utilized at some point, Lonza will be allowed to use it for its own work.

Sanofi has turned to a partner before for help in the production of monoclonal antibodies, known as mAbs. Two years ago it transferred production of mAbs it was working on with its sometimes-partner Regeneron to a Boehringer Ingelheim plant in Germany. At that time, Sanofi said that 72% of its current R&D projects involved biologics, with nearly half of those being mAbs.

Sanofi’s own production work with mAbs has not always been stellar. In October, the drugmaker received a complete response letter tied to problems at a fill/finish plant in France, delaying approval of sarilumab, an expected blockbuster that it is developing with Regeneron. Sanofi CEO Olivier Brandicourt has said a couple of times recently that the company has gotten indications from the FDA that its responses to the issues are on point and that it expects a reinspection soon.