Since 1993, the site in Dagenham, UK has served in manufacturing a succession of drugs for the treatment of a variety of cancers but last Thursday the final batches rolled off the production line in accordance to Sanofi's plans to shut the doors on the 80 year old facility later this year.
However, Paul Smith, a spokesperson for Sanofi, told in-Pharmatechnologist.com that though the firm’s footprint will be removed from the site with both equipment and manufacturing lines being transferred to sites in Italy and Germany, the firm intends to regenerate the 108 acre site as a multi-occupancy science, business, manufacturing and retail park.
The so-named ‘business-east’ brand is intended to bring about several thousand jobs to the local area with 17 acres of Sanofi’s specialist laboratory and sterile manufacturing buildings being specially dedicated to creating a centre of scientific excellence.
“A core part of Sanofi’s project was to leave behind a legacy that brings new businesses and skilled jobs to the area,” said Smith.
The site employed 4,500 people in the late 1980s but the workforce currently stands at 450, the majority of which will be made redundant at the end of the month.
Sanofi announced the site was to close in 2009, citing a strong decline in demand due to expiring patents for the drugs produced at Dagenham.
Sanofi’s exit precedes the 2015 closure of its plant in Newcastle, UK which was announced last year and branded “appalling” by trade union Unite. The loss of over 400 jobs was also down to patent losses, in particular Pfizer’s coronary artery disease drug Plavix.
Dagenham's Unique Exit?
According to Smith, Sanofi’s strategy with the historic facility – it developed and manufactured M & B 693, a successful gangrene treatment during the Second World War – was a “unique way for a large pharmaceutical company to leave a site.”
In 2011, Pfizer had a similar exit strategy to Dagenham’s when it shuttered its R&D capabilities at Sandwich, Kent, UK following its acquisition of Wyeth. Though Pfizer still has a presence at the site, the new ‘discovery-park’ has been leased to nearly 40 companies in the fields of life science, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, science and technology.