French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi is taking steps to prepare for the next pandemic by investing €900mn in two new vaccine manufacturing facilities in Singapore and France. The two new facilities will be known as Evolutive Vaccine Facilities (EVFs) and will be managed by BioNTech and Hilleman Laboratories for the vaccine manufacturing while Thermo Fisher Scientific will be in charge of processing vials and packaging. Founded in Paris in 2004, Sanofi currently manufactures prescription medication and vaccines for illnesses such as influenza, polio and yellow fever.
The decision to open up a facility in Singapore is seen as being a strategic decision by the company given the importance of the market as well as the preponderance of flu epidemics in the region. Asia currently has a population of 4.5 billion, which is set to increase to 5.3 billion by 2050, while a future pandemic could potentially spread even faster than COVID-19 and make social distancing more difficult, which is why efficient vaccine manufacturing is essential on the continent.
The Evolutive Vaccine Facilities (EVFs) in Singapore and France are Sanofi’s biggest industrial investment and the company is confident that the facilities will be fully digitalised and able to produce up to four different types of vaccines at once by 2025.
The facilities will create thousands of jobs across healthcare and manufacturing and will see the company embrace advanced medical and manufacturing science.
“Sanofi’s decision to locate one of its two EVFs in Singapore will strengthen the country’s biopharmaceutical industry and, more broadly, its manufacturing sector,” declared Dr Beh Swan Gin, chairman of the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) in a statement welcoming Sanofi’s investment. “It is testament to Singapore’s capabilities in advanced manufacturing and the biomedical sciences. Critically, the EVF in Singapore will also play a key role in ensuring future pandemic preparedness in Singapore and the region.”
“There was also limited investment in vaccine research,” noted Associate Professor Hsu Li Yang, an expert in infectious diseases at the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health. “The COVID-19 pandemic appears to have changed the thinking of our policymakers, with the announcement of several companies building vaccine manufacturing plants in Singapore.”
While we all sincerely hope that COVID-19 will not be here forever, we need a vaccine that will be – and the capabilities to create new ones when they are needed.
“With these evolutive facilities, we are already planting the seeds and preparing for the next pandemic, and this is the level of agility that you need,” said Thomas Triomphe, Sanofi’s executive Vice-President for vaccines.