Sanofi launches a new antibiotics effort, teams with Fraunhofer

Sanofi is joining forces with researchers at Germany's Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft in the hunt for new antibiotics. The pharma giant is setting up a new collaboration that will mingle investigators from both organizations in a team effort to discover novel compounds in the pharma giant's extensive natural product collection. And while the initial focus will be on infectious diseases, the collaboration's mandate could extend to other fields, such as diabetes, pain and rare diseases.

"This cooperation with Fraunhofer is unique as internal and external scientists will work together as one team on common projects, in shared labs to acquire new knowledge with the objective to bring new medicines to patients suffering from infectious diseases," noted Sanofi R&D chief Elias Zerhouni in a statement.

Their work will be conducted as part of a newly established "natural product center of excellence."

Sanofi ($SNY) noted that growing antibiotic resistance has made new initiatives like this particularly critical. But there's nothing new about that. The pharma industry largely got out of antibiotics, at least in part because of the lean commercial prospects that were to be found.

The partnership, though, also reflects a trend among many of the biggest players in R&D to work with outside groups in the hunt for new therapies. Academic groups are playing a growing role in that externalization process, which has been highlighted by a long string of discovery pacts in recent years.

"This first Fraunhofer Natural Product Center of Excellence is not only a win-win project for both partners but goes far beyond drug discovery, because the access to Sanofi's natural product collection will also create value for other industries with significant economic opportunities," said Dr. Rainer Fischer, the senior executive director of Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology, in a statement. 

- read the press release