The future of how Sanofi makes medicines is here today as the company is celebrating the grand opening of its new Framingham digitally enabled manufacturing facility in the U.S., one of the first of its kind in the world. This is the result of Sanofi’s commitment to transform its industrial capabilities so that they are as innovative as the medicines in its pipeline.
The new facility is 80 times more productive and has the potential to make medicines for two times the amount of patients per year than a traditional factory. It features the most advanced industrial capabilities and digital manufacturing technologies that enable Sanofi to produce high quality biologics and speed up the time it takes to deliver medicines to patients. Its smaller footprint significantly reduces the impact on the environment. The transition to single-use technologies that replace the large scale fixed stainless steel equipment reduces the need to clean equipment with water, chemicals, and solvents. The new technology also results in less CO2 emissions.
Factory of the Future at Sanofi
Reduced Environmental Impact
Sanofi has invested $400 million (approx. 364 million euros) in Research and Development, biologics manufacturing and production improvements at the Framingham campus, which has been a critical global hub for its medicines for 30 years. Included in this is the digitally enabled manufacturing facility where all manufacturing stages are controlled through state-of-the-art analytical techniques that forecast and avoid variations to improve performance and ensure the quality of biologic medicines. Plant operators are supported by digital collaboration, data analytics or augmented reality solutions, helping them to make real-time decisions and adjustments. Simulations provide the level of manufacturing modularity and flexibility required to support personalized medicines.
The new factory will manufacture biologics for the Sanofi Genzyme portfolio. The facility’s advanced data-driven manufacturing technologies enable Sanofi to quickly change from one manufacturing process to another, allowing for higher levels of productivity and the ability to produce increasingly complex medicines, ultimately reducing the time it takes for the products to get from the plant to patients around the world.
What are Biologics?
Biologics─such as antibodies, proteins or enzymes─are large molecules, often 200 to 1,000 times the size of “classical” small molecules used in chemical drugs. They are engineered by nature or by scientists, and can only be made using living cells in a fermentation process that is not unlike brewing beer. They have been largely used in vaccines and to mimic insulin, significantly improving the lives of people living with diabetes since the 1990s. People with rare genetic diseases have also benefitted from enzyme replacement therapy pioneered by Sanofi Genzyme at the beginning of the 1980s.
Currently, approximately two-thirds of its Research and Development pipeline is composed of biologics and Sanofi’s ambition is to reach 70% over the next five to 10 years. To keep pace with research advances and the growing importance of biologics─which have longer manufacturing times and more complex processes than chemistry-based drugs─Sanofi has made significant investments over the last five years to ramp up its biologics capabilities.
Find out more about biologics
“Making the Factory of the Future a Reality”
Philippe Luscan, Executive Vice President, Global Industrial Affairs, shares his vision on the importance of this new facility for the digital transformation of Industrial Affairs at Sanofi.
Sanofi celebrates the grand opening of the Framingham digitally enabled manufacturing facility. What makes this facility so special?
Our brand new Framingham facility is one of the world’s first digitally enabled manufacturing facilities to use continuous biologics production technology. It puts us at the leading edge of bio-manufacturing. The whole industrial process is digitalized, paperless, and allows us to produce more medicines in a smaller environmental footprint versus traditional manufacturing facilities.
We are proud to celebrate the Framingham facility as a concrete illustration of our ambition to make the factory of the future a reality. This also takes us a step further in our quest to become a world leader in biologics production.
Another key asset of the facility is its location in the integrated Framingham biologics hub that provides the infrastructure to support activities ranging from early stage development through commercial manufacturing. This allows for seamless, end-to-end design and production, and also provides development opportunities for our employees.
It is also a great advantage that the facility is located in Massachusetts, the top life sciences hub and home to the world’s leading biotechnology companies and latest biotech research. It has the most highly educated workforce in the US as well as world-renowned universities and hospitals. With our facilities located in and around Boston, we are able to take full advantage of all the area has to offer, drawing on top talent and collaborating with universities to drive innovative research.
What digital technologies are used in this factory?
The facility is fully digitally powered from end to end and uses millions of data captured by sensors throughout the facility to continually optimize our manufacturing excellence.
As a result of automated data capture, we have real time access to production data from anywhere in the world, while a “digital twin” allows site managers to make adjustments on the go and simulate manufacturing process changes. We also use the digital twin as a training tool where operators, managers, and supervisors can interact with the process, the equipment, and the software in this virtual environment before they do so in the live environment.
The technology in this site allows us to get an even more accurate picture of what’s going on in the manufacturing process. The “Smart Quality” technology allows us to monitor the whole process and conduct completely digital batch record reviews to ensure the highest quality for our products, and the real time data-driven supply chain tool enables us to digitize forecasting, allowing us to adapt our production and optimize stocks and logistics.
Instead of having to collect data, employees can access it whenever and wherever they need it. Our Industrial Affairs employees are key for the success of our transformation.
With new processes and technologies, we also need new expertise and skills, which is why we are supporting our employees to gain new skills and improve existing ones. In 2018, we trained 1,200 employees on digital technologies worldwide. We are also supporting partnerships with universities and academia to develop skills for the future and attract new talent.
Will Sanofi transform its entire global industrial network?
Framingham is just one of our production sites in the world. It is the most advanced of the six pilot sites that we selected to test digital technologies. What we achieved here paves the way for the transformation of our global industrial network in which we have invested €1 billion every year over the last five years. Our objective is to roll the digital transformation out globally within the next three to five years.
In addition to digitalization, we have invested in the development of our biologics production capabilities to keep pace with their growing importance in our pipeline. As a result of our investments in biologics active ingredients production, we have become one of the top companies in this field. We have also heavily invested to maintain our leadership position in injectable biologics.
The Industrial Affairs team is an essential link between R&D and patients. This is absolutely critical to support the evolution of our R&D pipeline, and ensure readiness for the production of increasingly complex medicines and vaccines of the highest quality, while remaining economically accessible.