Sanofi and fellow French firm Transgene say they are working together on "the creation of a new state-of-the-art industrial platform" dedicated to the production of immunotherapies.

Sanofi's Genzyme unit will act as Transgene’s contract manufacturing organisation to produce batches of drug substance for the latter's immunotherapies, including its Modified Vaccinia Ankara (MVA) vaccines. The work will be carried out at the Genzyme Polyclonals site in Lyon and the project will cost 10 million euros, equally financed by the two firms. The platform will remain Sanofi’s exclusive property and Transgene will be a preferred customer for 15 years.

Olivier Charmeil, chief executive at Sanofi Pasteur, noted that the Lyon area is a strategic place for the company in the field of immunology. He said that his division, as well as Genzyme and the animal health business Merial, "will share locally their expertise to successfully implement this state-of-the-art platform and build a centre of excellence available for Transgene and potentially other customers".

Saying that the agreement "combines the strong expertise of recognised experts and pioneers in the fields of gene therapy and vaccines,”  Transgene chief executive Philippe Archinard said the collaboration will secure his company's commercial production "over the long run, enabling us to focus our resources on development and marketing of our products".

The Lyon site is already making polyclonal antibodies for the worldwide markets and "has all the necessary capabilities to support the registration of immunotherapy products", Sanofi noted. The new manufacturing suite should be completed in  the first quarter of 2015, while Transgene expects to file its first Biological Licence Application in 2016.

The Strasbourg-based group's four most advanced products have generated proof-of-concept data in lung cancer (TG4010, partnered with Novartis), liver cancer (Pexa-Vec), hepatitis C (TG4040) and HPV-related cervical lesions (TG4001).