Sanofi-Aventis is investing $90 million in China so that it can locally produce its diabetes treatment Lantus.

The French drugmaker is spending the aforementioned sum to expand its manufacturing facility in Beijing and build pre-filled injection production lines for Lantus (insulin glargine) SoloStar, a new, easy-to-use disposable pen for administration of the drug. The investment is expected to result in a capacity of up to 50 million units, which will help Sanofi "better meet the growth demand of the Chinese market”.

Chief executive Chris Viehbacher said that “we remain convinced of the strategic importance of the Chinese market” and local production of Lantus SoloStar, which is scheduled to start at the site in 2012, “will bring great benefits to the diabetes patients in China”.

Sanofi also announced that it has signed a new partnership with the Chinese Diabetes Society. The deal will see the firm initiate a diabetes genotyping project, involving more than 46,000 patients, with and without the disease, which “might potentially help to develop new treatments”.

The latest investment comes a couple of years after Sanofi spent $94 million to establish a facility in Shenzen for the production of its seasonal influenza vaccine Vaxigrip. Production of the latter is expected to begin in 2012.

Staying in Asia, and the company’s Sanofi Pasteur unit noted that it has started clinical trials of its dengue fever vaccine in Singapore and Vietnam.

These studies will be in addition to Phase II trials of the vaccine that are already underway in Thailand and the Philippines. Currently, there is no specific treatment available against dengue fever, the most widespread tropical disease after malaria.