PARIS French drugmaker Sanofi and Swiss manufacturer Lonza will invest 270 million euros ($285 million) in a new large-scale biologics facility that will produce monoclonal antibodies by 2020, the two companies said on Monday.
Pending regulatory approvals, the facility - which will be established through a 50-50 joint venture - will be located in Visp, Switzerland, Sanofi and Lonza said in a joint statement.
By contrast to most drugs that are chemically synthesized, many biologics are produced using living cells. They are seen as a promising answer in areas such as cardiovascular, neurology or cancer treatments.
Experts say they also provide means to treat a variety of medical illnesses and conditions that have no other treatments available. They are also more expensive than traditional products.
"Approximately sixty percent of our pipeline is made up of biologics, including monoclonal antibodies, dedicated to key disease areas such as cardiovascular, immunology and inflammation, neurology and oncology," said Philippe Luscan, executive vice president of global industrial affairs at Sanofi, in a statement.
"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," he added.
Lonza, which has previously set up similar sites in the United States and Singapore, will build and operate the infrastructure, the companies said. A spokesman with Sanofi said 200 jobs would be created in the process.
Sanofi, which has failed to land two big biotech acquisitions over the past year, had said it would look to strike new partnerships to spur more growth for the company.
The French group is also open to more asset swaps after agreeing to hand its animal health unit to Boehringer Ingelheim in exchange for the German company's consumer healthcare operations last year.
Lonza, which reported higher annual profits in January, has also said it was keen to expand its global cell-biology portfolio.
($1 = 0.9471 euros)
(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta)