Sanofi-Aventis is the latest drugmaker to announce plans to strengthen its R&D presence in China.

The French pharmaceutical firm is expanding its R&D facility in Shanghai, as well as establishing a biometrics centre in Beijing. It has also signed a partnership agreement with the Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences (SIBS) for the discovery of drugs for neurological diseases, diabetes and cancer.

The company said that the expansion will allow “the rapid growth of clinical programmes and aims to encompass all activities, from drug-target identification to late-stage clinical studies”. It added that the R&D facility in Shanghai has expanded “at an exceptional pace” since it was set up in June 2005, while the biometrics centre should be fully operational by the end of the year.

Marc Cluzel, head of R&D at Sanofi, said the firm has “found a welcoming environment and a huge talent pool in China”, and claimed that “exploring new avenues of research and strategic alliances are the way to remain at the cutting edge in therapeutic expertise and innovation.” Michel DeWilde, senior vice president of Sanofi Pasteur R&D, added that “a comprehensive development programme for vaccines is already on-going in China and we are looking forward to its expansion in the near future”.

Jia-Rui Wu, vice president of the SIBS, said the collaboration with Sanofi “brings pharmaceutical R&D in China to another level, by allowing talented Chinese scientists to become internationally recognised and ensuring that discoveries made in the area of basic research are rapidly converted into applications for treating diseases”.

Sanofi said that the SIBS deal coincides with the first anniversary of its partnership with the Institute of Hematology and Blood Diseases Hospital in Tianjin which has already begun to generate antibodies targeting acute myeloid leukaemia.