Sanofi-Aventis has signed a deal with Covance which could be worth some $2.20 billion to the US contract research organisation.

Over the next ten years, Covance will provide drug development services to Sanofi, with estimated payments ranging from $1.2-$2.2 billion. The French drugmaker is also selling its sites at Porcheville, France and Alnwick, UK to Covance for $25 million and the CRO said it will "maintain employment on these sites for at least the next five years".

Sanofi will utilise Covance's global R&D portfolio of discovery support, toxicology, chemistry, clinical Phase I-IV, central laboratory and market access services. It also includes "annual commitments for these services increasing over the next decade", plus a 10-year sole-source relationship for central laboratory services.

Sanofi's head of R&D, Marc Cluzel, said the deal fits with the company's strategy "to transform its R&D model and discover new medicines through the use of novel technologies and innovative partnerships". He added that the Covance alliance "will help us preserve hundreds of valuable jobs in Porcheville and Alnwick, while driving our R&D efficiency".

Covance chief executive Joe Herring said the deal represents "another win-win solution to the R&D productivity challenges facing the pharmaceutical industry and provides Covance with a unique source of growth".