Sanofi and Lonza have agreed to invest an initial CHF 290 million (approximately $288 million) to build a large-scale mammalian cell culture facility for monoclonal antibody production in Visp, Switzerland. The firms will establish a joint venture and each share equally in the initial investment.  Subject to regulatory approvals, the aim is to start constructing the first phase of the facility this year and have full operation in 2020. Contract manufacturing and development organization (CDMO) Lonza will build the facility and support the joint venture in its operation. The firm says it has previously built three similar facilities in the U.S. and Singapore.

Under terms of the partnership agreement, Lonza and Sanofi will share the available capacity at the plant, in line with their equity shareholding in the joint venture. Once operational, the Swiss facility will give Sanofi the capacity to quickly ramp up the manufacture of its own products to meet demand. Lonza will use its share of capacity, if not required by Sanofi, to meet the manufacturing requirements of its own customers. Lonza will also be free to market unused Sanofi capacity, when available. 

Philippe Luscan, evp global industrial affairs at Sanofi, said that some 60% of the firm’s pipeline is made up 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.… Lonza is a highly experienced partner in this field and the capabilities which this joint venture will create are critical to meeting our patients’ needs for these important therapies.”

Marc Funk, COO for pharma and biotech at Lonza, said that while the partnership effectively gives Sanofi dedicated capacity for its products, it represented a win–win situation for both parties. “By entering into this long-term strategic relationship, we have developed a tailor-made business model that best fits both Sanofi’s and Lonza’s requirements. As part of our strategic roadmap, we will develop further innovative business models based on the requirements of our customers. We intend to address these long-term market needs by establishing a state-of-the-art strategic biologics manufacturing platform. The strategic partnership with Sanofi represents the first module in this undertaking.”

Lonza’s pharma and biotech operation recorded 15.9% sales growth in 2016, reaching CHF 1.85 billion ($1.84 billion), and CORE EBIT growth of 40.8%. During the year the pharma and biotech segment reported major long-term strategic manufacturing deals with Kodiak Sciences, bluebird bio, and Clovis Oncology.

Earlier this month Lonza reported a deal to manufacture a Selecta Bioscience gene therapy candidate.


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