Sanofi (EURONEXT: SAN and NYSE: SNY) and Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Europe’s leading organisation for applied research, have announced the creation of a natural product centre of excellence to accelerate the discovery and development of new therapies to treat infectious diseases, the second leading cause of mortality worldwide(1) accounting for 10 million deaths in 2011.
Under the agreement, Sanofi and Fraunhofer IME (Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology) will collaborate to identify and optimise novel naturally occurring chemical or biological compounds, mainly in the field of infectious diseases. Penicillin, for example, is just one of a number of antibiotics derived from natural products. The approach may also be extended to other indications such as diabetes, pain and rare diseases, where natural products derived substances have proven to play an important role in treatment and disease prevention.
Sanofi will share its strain collection, one of the world’s largest, consisting of over a hundred thousand different micro-organisms, with Fraunhofer, and in addition is bringing its know-how in anti-infective research.
“There is a great medical need in fighting infectious diseases globally. This is critical given the rise of antibiotic resistance worldwide especially in the hospital setting with increasingly frequent serious, often life-threatening infections, where few advances have been made in the recent years,” said Dr. Elias Zerhouni, President, Global R&D at Sanofi. “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.”
“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 Prof. Dr. Rainer Fischer, Senior Executive Director from Fraunhofer IME.
The joint team of scientists will be led by Prof. Dr. Peter Hammann, Sanofi R&D, head of External Innovation of the Infectious Diseases Unit, in close co-ordination with Prof. Dr. Andreas Vilcinskas, Division Director Fraunhofer IME, Giessen, and will work together on analysing the genetic make-up of the strains, cultivating them under various conditions, stimulating them to produce active substances and investigating their effects. The hope is that extensive understanding is gained through this partnership aiming at finding new antibiotics to treat serious infectious diseases.
- World Health Organization. WHO Report 2011.