Sanofi-Aventis’ vaccines unit is to invest 70 million euros to build a new facility in China that will manufacture the French drugmaker’s influenza jabs.

During a high-profile ceremony in Beijing attended by Hu Jintao and Nicolas Sarkozy, the presidents of China and France, Sanofi’s chief executive Gerard Le Fur revealed that construction of the facility in the southern city of Shenzen will begin next year.

Work at the plant, to be run by Sanofi Pasteur, will be completed by 2012 and will complement another facility that the firm already has in the region. The company is expected to produce its Vaxigrip and Fluzone vaccines at the new site in order to meet increased demand in China and it will also be designed to be able to switch to pandemic vaccine manufacturing if such a pandemic is declared.

Dr Le Fur claimed that China is “recognising the value of vaccines”, saying that “the time is right...to further invest in China and prepare to provide this fast-growing market with the most modern vaccines to be produced in a state-of-the industry facility”. Xu Zongheng, mayor of Shenzhen, which is one of the fastest-growing cities in the world and is next to Hong Kong, noted that relations with Sanofi have been excellent for some 10 years and this latest news is “a milestone in the history of Shenzhen biological industry development".