sanofi-aventis inks diabetes test agreement with AgaMatrix

Companies to develop and market blood glucose marketing tests

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PARIS—Strengthening its position in the growing global diabetes market, sanofi-aventis has signed a long-term agreement with Salem, N.H.-based AgaMatrix for the development, supply and commercialization of blood glucose monitoring (BGM) tests.

The products developed will be aimed at reducing the perceived complexity of managing patients on insulin therapy. Starting in the second half of 2010, sanofi-aventis plans to commercialize the first products of this partnership, capitalizing on the company's expertise with insulin and insulin delivery, and building on AgaMatrix's advanced technology and BGM development capabilities.

The agreement calls for sanofi-aventis to combine its brands, Lantus, a basal insulin, and Apidra, a fast-acting insulin, with AgaMatrix's blood glucose monitors (BGMs). Under terms of the deal, sanofi-aventis will hold exclusive licenses to the BGMs that are co-developed by the two companies and will sell through its Global Diabetes Division. AgaMatrix may continue to commercialize its own BGMs, separately from the deal.

Pierre Chancel, head of sanofi-aventis' diabetes division, referred to the agreement in a statement as a "concrete step towards fulfilling our vision to deliver integrated solutions to patients and become the partner of choice in the field of diabetes."

sanofi-aventis CEO Christopher Viehbacher mapped out a strategy last year of reducing the company's reliance on branded prescription drugs and diversifying. At the same time, Viehbacher expressed an interest in certain areas of medical technology, including devices that allow patients to measure their health at home, according to Reuters.

"The vision is to become a healthcare company … it's logical to look at some kinds of devices," Viehbacher told the news agency.

Financial terms of the collaboration were not disclosed, but the blood monitoring systems will be exclusive to sanofi-aventis and will be designed to work synergistically with its existing diabetes treatments.

AgaMatrix develops and provides blood-glucose test strips, handheld strip readers and companion software. The company's WaveSense technology uses "dynamic electrochemistry" to identify and correct errors in blood samples, manufacturing changes and environmental conditions.

Andrew Chen, marketing coordinator of AgaMatrix, says the partnership between the European and U.S. firms is ideal for both sides.

"The contract terms are confidential, but it is safe to say both companies will benefit," Chen tells ddn. "sanofi gains access to a huge market with excellent technology, and AgaMatrix benefits through sanofi's tremendous reach throughout a global healthcare market. As a small technology company, we speak to everyone in the market for potential collaboration. There was mutual interest to discuss opportunities in our space. sanofi saw our advanced technology platform, ability to innovate and flexibility to meet their needs."

With obesity growing across the globe—even among children—there is an unprecedented spread of diabetes. Since 1985, the number of people with diabetes worldwide has grown from 30 million to 230 million, according to the World Diabetes Foundation (WDF), which has estimated that 3.5 million people die from the disease annually.

While diabetes continues to spread rapidly in the United States and Europe, its impact on the developing world is even more devastating. The WDF expects 80 percent of new cases of diabetes to emerge in the developing world. While most diabetes sufferers in industrialized nations tend to be above age 60, The World Health Organization reports that most people afflicted by diabetes in the developing world are between the ages of 35 and 64.

Pharmaceutical companies are in aggressive competition for the growing market for diabetes drugs in China, and sanofi-aventis and AgaMatrix are counting on their newly formed partnership to penetrate the market abroad and at home.

The partnership allows AgaMatrix to broaden its presence, Chen adds. Furthermore, the insulin monitoring systems are in demand.

"As a global deal, it opens every large market in the world, whereas we are primarily focused on the U.S. and Europe," he says. "The category is in excess of $6 billion on a worldwide basis with tens of millions of folks testing—and many more that are not yet testing or diagnosed. So the opportunity is very large."

sanofi-aventis announces plans to expand operations in France

PARIS—Setting a goal for the company to change its chemical industrial activities in France to biotechnology and vaccine production by 2014, sanofi-aventis announced in late March that it will invest $201 million in its industrial plants, including $121 million for the creation of a new biosynthetic process in the industrial plants in Saint-Aubin-LÈs-Elbeuf in Seine-Maritime and Vertolaye in Puy de DÙme, France.

sanofi-aventis has been working on this goal since 2008, and since then, the company has devoted $938 million in that investment.

sanofi-aventis' new plan also include a gradual phase-out of the facilities in Romainville in Seine-Saint Denis by the end of 2013, accompanied by a job stimulus plan to be implemented in the area.  

sanofi-aventis said the project also prepares the facilities for a decline in production that will follow patent expirations of several major drugs derived by synthetic chemistry.
Some new activities from Sanofi Pasteur would be housed in a new facility in Neuville-sur-SaÙne, RhÙne, where a new vaccine against the dengue fever is slated for production. By 2014, this plant will become sanofi-aventis' third-largest European center fully dedicated to vaccines.

The project will also includes measures to assist employees' geographic mobility, especially in the Paris and Lyon area labor basins, and to facilitate career mobility by means of biotechnology training programs for 700 employees, to be implemented in partnership with French universities.

"The change of our industrial network towards more biotechnologies corresponds to the evolution of innovation in the pharmaceutical world, more and more balanced between vaccines and compounds arising from biotechnologies, and active ingredients derived from synthetic chemistry," says Philippe Luscan, senior vice president of sanofi-aventis' industrial affairs division. "This project is fully in line with the group's strategy and will
allow sanofi-aventis to maintain its competitive advantage, to generate sustainable growth and to keep a steady number of industry jobs in France, over the next four years."

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