Sanofi Finally Closes a Deal, Pays $750 Million for This Connecticut Biotech

Published: Jul 13, 2017

Sanofi Finally Closes a Deal, Pays $750 Million for This Connecticut Biotech July 11, 2017
By Mark Terry, Breaking News Staff

Paris, France-based Sanofi said it is buying Meriden, Conn.-based Protein Sciences for $650 million upfront and $100 million in milestone payments.

A private company, Protein Sciences is a vaccine company, which will bolster Sanofi’s already significant presence in that market. In October 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Protein Science’s Flublok Quadrivalent Influenza Vaccine (QIV), the only recombinant protein-based influenza vaccine to be approved by the FDA.

Recombinant protein-based vaccines aren’t new, but are generally considered to be more pure than the traditional egg-based vaccines. Jack Cox, a spokesman for Sanofi, told Biopharma-Reporter, “They offer more flexibility for research, development and product. In the case of Flu, they also offer a production alternative to traditional egg-based flu vaccines. Moreover, insect cells are easier to grow, compared to traditional mammalian cells.”

Protein Science uses a Baculovirus Expression Vector System (BEVS) to optimize a proprietary Spodoptera frugiperda insect cell line, expresSF+ cells. The company indicates this allows it to manufacture vaccine in about two to three months compared to the typical six-month period, and can even be shortened to a few weeks if it has the recombinant baculoviruses in storage that express the appropriate hemagglutinin protein.

As part of the acquisition, Sanofi will pick up the laboratories and pilot plant in Meriden, Conn., as well as a manufacturing site in Pearl River, New York. In addition, Protein Science operates a manufacturing partnership with Unigen in Japan for large-scale bulk flu vaccine production, and another partnership with Adimmune in Taiwan for formulation, filling and packaging. However, the Unigen plant is new and hasn’t yet been approved by the FDA.

“Flublok production involves the same steps as a traditional vaccine: seeds and cells production, antigen manufacturing, formulation, filling, packaging, and testing all along the chain,” Cox told Pharma-Reporter. “Some of those steps could be supported by Sanofi facilities in a mid-long term horizon.”

The biopharma industry, investors and analysts have all been watching Sanofi for signs of an acquisition. The French company had two big buyout failures, losing out to Pfizer for Medivation and to Johnson & Johnson for Actelion .

John Carroll, writing for Endpoints News, says, “Sanofi’s new deal will not be close to enough to satisfy analysts and investors who believe that CEO Olivier Brandicourt needs to find a game-changing deal to help revive its fortunes. Brandicourt, though, has been reluctant to pay the blockbuster prices that biotechs fetch these days. Sanofi has reportedly been involved in takeover talks with Flexion , but so far there’s been no deal and the biotech’s share price fell back to earth as expectations gradually deflated.

“Protein Sciences was actively looking for an opportunity to grow its business, particularly in the U.S.,” said Manon Cox, president and chief executive officer of Protein Sciences, in a statement. “As part of Sanofi Pasteur, we expect our Flublock influenza vaccine to benefit from Sanofi Pasteur ’s expertise in the field of influenza vaccines.”

The deal is consistent with a consolidation of the vaccine industry. In the 1960s, there were about 26 manufacturers of FDA-licensed vaccines. Now there are about seven that manufacture a single vaccine and about eight that produce more than one. Internationally, it’s really down to five companies—Sanofi Pasteur, GlaxoSmithKline , Merck & Co. , Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.

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