Sanofi – Making ‘pharma’ rhyme with ‘Flanders’

Since its establishment in the 1970s, French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi has become a global leader in the healthcare industry. Headquartered in Paris, the company employs 110,000 people in more than 100 countries around the globe. Throughout the years, they’ve contributed to Sanofi’s leading position in the development of treatments for diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, multiple sclerosis and rare diseases, as well as vaccines and more.

In 2011, Sanofi acquired Genzyme, along with its biological production site in Geel (Flanders). Apart from this production facility, the French pharmaceutical firm operates two other sites – in Brussels and Diegem – and employs a staff of 900 in Belgium and Flanders as a region.

In facts and figures

  • Parent company: Sanofi
  • HQ: Paris, France
  • Annual turnover: EUR 37 billion
  • Established in Flanders since: 1973
  • Number of employees in Belgium: 900 +100
  • Website: www.sanofi.com

From big to bigger in Geel

EUR 300 million: that’s how much will be injected into its production site in Geel. The French multinational announced its investment and expansion plans in April 2016, choosing its Flanders-based factory for the production of its latest generation of biological medicines.

Today, the Sanofi site in Geel mainly produces alglucosidase alfa – a protein therapy for the treatment of Pompe disease. This genetic disorder damages muscle and nerve cells, affecting 5000 patients worldwide. “By building a new production line, we will add pioneering new medicines to our production portfolio,” says Gunther Pauwels, General Manager Sanofi Geel. “We have a robust development pipeline of biological molecules, including monoclonal antibodies. This investment enhances our work and expertise in areas such as cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and atopic dermatitis.”

At the site, 8,000 m2 of additional production space will be built to manufacture biological antibodies that are used as an active ingredient in medicines. These ‘monoclonal’ antibodies, however, are so complex that they cannot be obtained through chemical production. Instead, Sanofi extracts them from living cells that are cultivated in large bioreactors.

“Biological medicines have huge potential,” comments Stéphane Vandendael, General Manager of Sanofi Genzyme Belux. “The fact that we were able to bring this investment to Geel is mainly thanks to the area’s unique and long-standing expertise in biopharma.” Gunther Pauwels adds: “Once the expansion is complete, we will start by hiring around 100 people, mainly highly-educated personnel.”

Flanders and Sanofi

Sanofi’s biotech factory in Geel was established 20 years ago, when the Dutch firm Pharming set up a base there. Five years later, Pharming Geel became part of the US-based Genzyme before being acquired by Sanofi in 2011.

“In the past 15 years, no less than EUR 900 million has been invested in our site,” Gunther Pauwels concludes, “and after this investment round, there’s still plenty of room for further expansion.”

Sanofi

From left to right:: Stéphane Vandendael (General Manager Sanofi Genzyme Belux), Philippe Muyters (Flemish Minister for Work, Economy, Innovation and Sport), Gunther Pauwels (General Manager Sanofi Geel) and Claire Tillekaerts (CEO Flanders Investment & Trade).