Sanofi launches a vaccine R&D program with blockbuster Prevnar 13 in its sights

Sanofi has put Pfizer ($PFE) on notice that it's going after the blockbuster pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) market and Prevnar 13. France's pharma giant is partnering with SK Chemicals in South Korea to ramp up a global vaccine program, kicking off with a $23 million upfront payment from Sanofi in a deal designed to split research costs and share profits from around the world.

Sanofi ($SNY) has a big target in mind. Prevnar 13 appears to be on track to break the $4 billion revenue barrier in the next two years. And a new study out just days ago demonstrated its effect in preventing pneumonia in older patients, a new use that could tack on anywhere from $300 million to $1.5 billion in annual sales, depending on which analyst you're talking to.

That booming market clearly drew the avid attention of Sanofi and its big vaccines unit at Sanofi Pasteur. The current PCV market is $4 billion, notes Sanofi in its release. "It is estimated that about 14.5 million episodes of serious pneumococcal disease occur annually, resulting in about 826,000 deaths in children aged 1-59 months," notes Sanofi.

The partnership also underscores Sanofi's commitment under CEO Chris Viehbacher to open up its research operation and ink more collaborations on research, accessing new ideas and sharing the risk and rewards involved. Sanofi has struggled to develop new drugs on its own over the past 5 years. But its collaboration with Regeneron has provided a big boost to its pipeline.  

Sanofi Pasteur CEO Olivier Charmeil

For SK, the deal also comes with a big sweetener. If the collaborators are successful, SK will have the contract to manufacture a vaccine that could inspire worldwide demand.

"Sanofi Pasteur is committed to driving the open innovation strategy in improving global public-health concerns, and to this end, this collaboration with SK Chemicals will showcase a win-win partnership built on mutual strengths and expertise of each company," said Sanofi Pasteur CEO Olivier Charmeil, in a statement.

- here's the release

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