Sanofi-Aventis is looking to keep its R&D spend for 2008 at roughly the same level as this year, according to a report in a French newspaper.

An article in Le Monde, which cited an internal memo sent to Sanofi’s 13,00-strong R&D staff as its source, also claimed that revenue growth will be in the region of 3% next year, due to no new drugs being approved before "at best end-2008/2009" and an unfavourable exchange rate. The French drugmaker has confirmed the existence of the letter but noted that its R&D budget has yet to be finalised.

The company is also not commenting on any of the specific figures in the newspaper article, which also made reference to plans to replace departing employees "on a case by case basis," which suggested that some of the posts vacated may not be replaced.

However Sanofi’s bid to cut costs is nothing new and is an aim shared by the whole industry. At its R&D day in September, research chief Marc Cluzel spoke about the need to be more efficient in every aspect of the business. The Paris-headquartered firm’s R&D spend for the first half of 2007 was 2.18 billion euros or 15.5% of net sales.

Meantime the firm’s vaccines unit Sanofi Pasteur has signed a licensing deal that gives it access to the dengue virus antigen technology that has been developed by the US biotechnology company Maxygen.

Under the terms of the deal, Maxygen will transfer over a portfolio of preclinical dengue antigens for development and worldwide commercialisation of a second-generation vaccine. In addition to royalties, the pact could be worth up to $24.5 million.

The dengue virus is a mosquito-borne disease that infects more than 50 million people annually and kills more than 20,000, mainly children, according to the World Health Organisation.