Sanofi, Fraunhofer create new natural product center of excellence

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French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi and Germany-based Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft have formed a natural product center of excellence to speed up the discovery and development of new therapies to treat infectious diseases.

As part of the deal, Sanofi and Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME will team up to identify and optimize new naturally occurring chemical or biological compounds, mainly in the field of infectious diseases.

According to the firms, 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 a major role in treatment and disease prevention.

The deal will see Sanofi share its strain collection consisting of over a hundred thousand different micro-organisms, with Fraunhofer.

Sanofi president Global R&D Elias Zerhouni said, “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.”

Scientists from both the firms will be led by Sanofi R&D head of External Innovation of the Infectious Diseases Unit Peter Hammann in co-ordination with Fraunhofer IME Division Director Andreas Vilcinskas, and will work together on analyzing the genetic make-up of the strains, cultivating them under various conditions, stimulating them to produce active substances and investigating their effects.

Fraunhofer senior executive director Rainer Fischer said, “This first Fraunhofer natural product center of excellence is not only a win win project for both partners but goes far beyond drug discovery, as the access to Sanofi’s natural product collection will create value also for other industries with significant economic opportunities.”