Sanofi and Fraunhofer Gesellschaft create centre of excellence for natural products

Aim to identify novel active compounds to accelerate the discovery and development of new antibiotics

French drugmaker Sanofi and Germany's leading organisation for applied research, Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, will create a natural product centre of excellence to accelerate the discovery and development of new treatments for infectious diseases, which accounted 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. They may also extend the research to other indications such as diabetes, pain and rare diseases, where substances derived from natural products 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 more than 100,000 different micro-organisms, with Fraunhofer, as well as its know-how in anti-infective research.

This cooperation with Fraunhofer is unique as internal and external scientists will work together as one team on common projects

'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.'

Rainer Fischer, Senior Executive Director from Fraunhofer IME, added: 'This first Fraunhofer Natural Product Centre 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.'

The joint team of scientists will be led by Peter Hammann, Sanofi R&D, Head of External Innovation of the Infectious Diseases Unit, in close co-ordination with Andreas Vilcinskas, Division Director, Fraunhofer IME. They will analyse the genetic make-up of the strains, cultivating them under various conditions, stimulating them to produce active substances and investigating their effects, with the aim of finding new antibiotics.

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