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Sanofi to up synergy with Chinese pharma market

By LIU ZHIHUA | China Daily | Updated: 2023-05-30 09:10
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A visitor looks at the introduction of medicines for vaccines and chronic diseases at the Sanofi booth at the 5th CIIE in Shanghai on Nov 7, 2022. [Photo/VCG]

French pharmaceutical company Sanofi will accelerate the modernization of its manufacturing sites and research network in China to better integrate these into its global industrial system, a senior company executive said.

The company will also reform its medical practices, and share revolutionary new drug research and development and manufacturing technologies, innovative therapies and new drugs with China, to contribute more to the development of China's pharmaceutical industry through cross-border integration, Wayne Shi, president of Sanofi Greater China, told China Daily in an exclusive interview.

"With deep roots in China for over 40 years, Sanofi is chasing the miracles of science to make continuous breakthroughs in digital innovation and local research and development, and aiming to be a 'local-multinational' pharmaceutical company," he said. "We have always been optimistic about the Chinese market and will continuously expand our investment in China."

China is Sanofi's second-largest market, behind only the United States, and revenue from China in 2022 reached more than 3.12 billion euros ($3.37 billion), up 6.2 percent year-on-year.

Thanks to China's fast-expanding market, unwavering commitment to opening-up, and emphasis on innovation and high-quality development, the country has become increasingly important, both as a consumer market and as an indispensable link in the global industrial and supply chains of multinational companies, experts said.

According to a report by the R&D-based Pharmaceutical Association Committee, China's sustained opening-up has attracted an increasing number of multinational pharmaceutical companies to expand their investments in both coastal cities and interior regions. They have also expanded investments from focusing on market and manufacturing to R&D in China, it said.

Sanofi has built three manufacturing sites, in Beijing; Hangzhou in Zhejiang province, and Shenzhen in Guangdong province.

Shi said products made at those facilities not only meet the needs of the Chinese market but are also exported to the Asia-Pacific region and the European Union.

Currently, the Beijing manufacturing plant is the largest injection manufacturing unit for Sanofi in the Asia-Pacific region. Following its official market release of an innovative drug into the Chinese mainland market for the treatment of adults with insufficiently controlled type 2 diabetes mellitus, the company plans to invest hundreds of millions of yuan in the Beijing manufacturing site, Shi said.

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease in which a patient's pancreas does not make enough insulin, resulting in high blood sugar levels.

The aim, Shi said, is to localize the production of the injectant, to ensure high-quality supply of the innovative compound therapy that combines two complementary ingredients for simple injection once a day.

Sanofi's vaccine manufacturing base in Shenzhen has realized localized production of flu vaccines and the Hangzhou manufacturing site is already an important facility in manufacturing solid preparations.

Shi also said that China, which hosts the company's four R&D sites and an international innovation center, is forecast to play a greater role in Sanofi's global R&D system.

"Sanofi has been increasing R&D investment in the Chinese market for more than 10 years, and China has become a crucial option for the company's global simultaneous development strategy since 2019," Shi said.

"We expect to introduce more than 25 innovative products into China between 2020 and 2025, covering immunity and inflammation, rare diseases and rare blood diseases, oncology, vaccines, cardiovascular and diabetes," Shi added.

The company established a global clinical data operations center in Chengdu, Sichuan province as early as 2018, and in 2021, it opened the Sanofi Institute for Biomedical Research in Suzhou, Jiangsu province — its first global research institute in China that focuses on cutting-edge biological research in major disease areas such as immunization and inflammation, oncology, rare diseases or rare blood disorders, neurology and diabetes.

At the end of 2021, China had participated in more than 80 percent of Sanofi's global late-stage development programs, and currently, China has been included in more early-stage global R&D projects, according to Shi.

The company has also established strategic partnerships with various China-based biotech and tech companies such as Innovent Biologic, Insilico Medicine, Adagene and Baidu, to accelerate its pace in fields including oncology, AI drug discovery and antibody development technology.

Shi also said the company will further cooperate with local enterprises in fields ranging from innovative medicine, biopharmaceutical, biotech, and technology and digitalization, to drive its development in China.

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