Sanofi and Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, a European organization for applied research, have launched 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 worldwide, accounting for 10 million deaths in 2011.
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 infectious diseases. Penicillin, for example, is just one of a number of antibiotics derived from natural products. The approach also may be extended to indications such as diabetes, pain and rare diseases, for which natural product-derived substances have proven an important role in treatment and disease prevention. Sanofi will share its strain collection, consisting of over 100,000 different micro-organisms, with Fraunhofer.
"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 also will create value for other industries with significant economic opportunities," said professor Rainer Fischer, senior executive director of Fraunhofer IME.
The joint team of scientists will be led by professor Peter Hammann, head of external innovation of the Infectious Diseases Unit at Sanofi R&D, in close coordination with professor Andreas Vilcinskas, division director of Fraunhofer IME, Giessen, and will work together on analyzing the genetic makeup of the strains, cultivating them under various conditions, stimulating them to produce active substances and investigating their effects.