Sanofi and Fraunhofer announce the creation of a Natural Product Center of Excellence - Goal is to identify novel active compounds to accelerate the discovery and development of new antibiotics

Press Release /

Sanofi (EURONEXT: SAN and NYSE: SNY) and Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Europe’s leading organization for applied research, announced today the creation of a natural product center of excellence to accelerate the discovery and development of new therapies to treat infectious diseases, the second leading cause of mortality worldwide1 accounting for 10 million deaths in 2011.

© Fraunhofer IME

Under the agreement, Sanofi and Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME will collaborate to identify and optimize 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 Elias Zerhouni, President, Sanofi Global R&D, »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, as the access to Sanofi’s natural product collection will create value also for other industries with significant economic opportunities«, says Prof. Dr. Rainer Fischer, Senior Executive Director at the 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 analyzing 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.

About Infectious Diseases

Infectious diseases are communicable diseases, caused by micro-organisms (microbes) such as viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites. They represent one third of the annual mortality for the entire planet. Despite global efforts to halt the increase and spread of antimicrobial resistance, bacteria continue to become less and less susceptible to antimicrobial drugs, while rates of discovery for new antibiotics are declining. Consequently, multidrug-resistant bacteria are becoming a severe threat to public health. There are already major issues in the management of the annually 17 million severe bacterial infections treated in the hospital of industrialized countries and the 9 million people yearly affected by tuberculosis in the developing world. Therefore it is critical to identify new strategies in an attempt to combat infectious diseases. Sanofi is a major anti-infective drug provider and has a strong R&D commitment for finding novel ways for the treatment of bacterial infections, including access to novel natural products, which is the source of more than 80% of all marketed antibiotics. Since the early 60’s, Sanofi discovered the natural product derived compounds rifampicin, for treating tuberculosis, teicoplanin, used for severe infections in hospitals, thelitromycin, a macrolide derivative, which are still to date important members of the antibiotic portfolio of the company.  


About Sanofi
Sanofi, a global and diversified healthcare leader, discovers, develops and distributes therapeutic solutions focused on patients’ needs. Sanofi has core strengths in the field of healthcare with seven growth platforms: diabetes solutions, human vaccines, innovative drugs, consumer healthcare, emerging markets, animal health and the new Genzyme. Sanofi is listed in Paris (EURONEXT: SAN) and in New York (NYSE: SNY).



[1] World Health Organization. WHO Report 2011.


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