Company: Sanofi ($SNY)
Investment: $90 million
Themes: Diabetes

Globally, Sanofi's diabetes drug Lantus is a huge product, bringing in $5 billion in 2011. But in China, the French drugmaker finds itself chasing Novo Nordisk ($NVO) and Bayer. The race has heated up in recent years, with Sanofi growing Lantus sales in China by two-thirds in 2011 on the back of being added to Beijing and Shanghai reimbursement lists. Now, the French drugmaker is trying to keep the pressure on with a multipronged attack.

The headline investment is the $90 million Sanofi is spending to build a production plant in Beijing. Sanofi completed the first phase--covering assembly and packaging--in May. The next step is to add an aseptic insulin cartridge production line. When up and running, the plant will support Sanofi's expansion in China by turning out 48 million prefilled insulin pens a year.

Sanofi's investment strategy goes beyond bricks and mortar though. Last year it joined with the Chinese Ministry of Health to run a diabetes management program. The 5-year initiative aims to develop 500 emerging diabetes experts, train 10,000 community doctors and help patients better manage diabetes. For China--a country facing huge healthcare challenges--the support of Sanofi could be a big help. And it is potentially a major boost for Sanofi's efforts to make Lantus the go-to diabetes drug in China. Sanofi is also working with the Chinese Diabetes Society on a project that could lead to the creation of the first Type 1 registry in the country.

Undisclosed investments in these initiatives could prove at least as important to the fate of the $2.1 billion Chinese diabetes market as Sanofi's insulin-packaging plant. To make sure all bases are covered, Sanofi is giving China a starring role in global R&D too. Speaking last November, Sanofi CEO Chris Viehbacher said: "Cambridge is essentially one research hub. France will be a second research hub, Frankfurt a third, and China essentially a fourth hub."


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