Unused €107m pilot plant in France to be demolished, says Sanofi

Sanofi's Montpellier, France site. Image: Google Streetview

Sanofi says it will demolish a pilot plant in Montpellier that has been left idle since its completion in 2011, citing its evolving biologics-focused portfolio.

The DI50 facility, located at Sanofi’s R&D campus in Montpellier in southern France, represented a €107m ($126m) investment by the Big Pharma firm when it was completed earlier this decade. But six years on the pilot plant has never been used and Sanofi is moving ahead with plans to demolish the 9,000m2 facility.

The small molecule plant was given the go-ahead by Sanofi in the early 2000s but it was only completed in 2011, Sanofi spokesman Nicolas Kressmann told this publication.

“In the meantime, our company’s portfolio evolved towards a majority of biologics products rather than chemical products,” he said.

“To date, our industrial operations have sufficient production capacity in chemistry,” he continued. “Our future launches are largely biologics, and as a result, no increase in chemical capacity was required.”

Turbulent history

The non-opening of the DI50 plant was cited in a Montpellier Union report in July 2012 as part of a list of reductions in Sanofi’s worldwide R&D network, but according to Kressmann there were attempts to repurpose the plant.

“At the end of 2014, we entered into discussions with a company carrying out an industrial project aimed at increasing its production capacity. The technical, regulatory and economic feasibility of the project made it possible to highlight an inadequacy of the proposed tool with the industrial project. As a result, it was agreed not to continue discussions on this project.”

Therefore Sanofi decided to divest the unused DI50 plant, he continued, though this too was unsuccessful.

“Options for leasing, selling or re-using the tool for other activities were considered. As none of its solutions were satisfactory, the decision was made to upgrade the equipment and proceed with the destruction of the building.”

While the Big Pharma firm has reduced its workforce at the Montpellier and other French R&D sites over the past few years, Kressmann said the decision to tear down the DI50 plant will have no social impact as no personnel were assigned to this building.

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