Sanofi to overhaul French plants for biotech, vaccines

More change is afoot at Sanofi-Aventis. As the company nears patent expirations for some key drugs, it's reconstructing its manufacturing accordingly. The change is further evidence of Sanofi's diversification drive: It will allow production to shift toward vaccines and biotech drugs and away from chemical-based meds.

To overhaul production, Sanofi plans to plow $200 million (€150 million) into remodeling and restructuring plants in France, Reuters reports. Part of the plan: A vaccine production facility that will become Europe's third-largest. Another part: Shutting down a plant in Romainville, France, by the end of 2013.

Some jobs will disappear, while others will be created. "There is a balance between a reduction in chemical jobs and a rise in biotechnology jobs, so the number of jobs will be steady overall," Sanofi's Philippe Luscan, head of industrial affairs, tells Reuters.

The idea is to make all these shifts happen by 2014, retraining employees along the way to help soften the conversion from chemical production--which requires one type of trained worker--to biotech and vaccines, which require different skills and training. The company aims to retrain 700 staff from chemistry to biotech, the company says in a statement. Some employees will be relocated to other Sanofi operations in France as well.

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ALSO: Sanofi-Aventis further broadened its healthcare business by agreeing to develop blood sugar monitoring systems with AgaMatrix, a privately held U.S. firm. Report