SINGAPORE – French pharmaceutical company, Sanofi has begun construction on the first of two so-called Evolutive Vaccine Facilities (EVFs) it is constructing with a total investment of 900 million euros (approximately US$976 million), Fiercebiotech reports.
The other plant is set to open in France. The EVFs will help “pave the way for future vaccine innovation around the world,” according to a press release from the company.
Sanofi isn’t just interested in vaccines. According to Sanofi, its pair of EVFs are designed for “agile and flexible” production of “multiple” vaccine and biologic platforms, such as mRNA, enzymes, and monoclonal antibodies.
Sanofi describes the Singapore EVF, which it is funding with 400 million euros (US$434 million), as a “first-of-its-kind,” fully digitalized and modular vaccine production plant capable of producing shots for Asia on a “large scale.”
The facility will take advantage of Singapore’s position as a regional “innovation hub for the healthcare industry,” according to the company.
“To proceed with massive investments like the EVF, you need a whole ecosystem of suppliers of raw materials, starters, and innovation technologies in the same area,” Thomas Triomphe, Sanofi’s executive vice president for vaccines, told the Singapore daily The Straits Times in an interview.
Sanofi already employs over 500 people in the country and plans to hire an additional 200 over the next five years as its EVF project progresses.
The Singapore plant is expected to be completed by the end of 2025, according to the company’s release.
The Singapore EVF is based on a central unit comprised of several “fully digitized modules,” according to Sanofi, and is designed for adaptability during current and future public health crises.
These modules will be able to produce up to four vaccines at the same time. That is true “regardless of the vaccine technology used,” whether it is protein, mRNA, or another platform, according to Sanofi.
Furthermore, the site will be designed to quickly “switch” its configuration toward a single vaccine process in order to increase supplies and adapt to changing public health needs, such as a pandemic.
“We know that Covid-19 is not going to be here forever,” Triomphe told The Straits Times. “So. with these evolutive facilities, we are already planting the seeds and preparing for the next pandemic, and this is the level of agility that you need.”
GlaxoSmithKline was the sole vaccine manufacturer in Singapore prior to the pandemic. The Straits Times reported that the site has been producing components for GSK’s childhood bacterial vaccines since 2011.
That appears to be changing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Apart from Sanofi, Pfizer’s German partner BioNTech and its mRNA rival Moderna have both announced plans to establish themselves in the Southeast Asian country.
BioNTech revealed plans for a Southeast Asia regional headquarters in Singapore in May, which will include a highly automated mRNA manufacturing facility.
According to the company, the plant will eventually have a capacity of several hundred million mRNA vaccine doses per year.
Moderna announced plans in February to establish four new subsidiaries in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan in order to expand its commercial footprint in Asia.
According to a press release issued earlier this year, the continent is now an “integral part” of the company’s operations. So far, Moderna’s Singapore stake appears to be less concerned with manufacturing.