Sanofi-Aventis is to invest $6.25bn into vaccine production between now and 2015 as the company attempts to keep pace with rising demand.
This sizeable investment is in addition to the $940m the company has pumped into its French vaccine facilities between 2005 and 2008.
The company expects global vaccine sales to double to $34bn by 2016 and is investing heavily in construction or expansion at 15 sites to meet demand.
Speaking at the inauguration of its new $156m vaccine plant at Val de Reuil, France, Wayne Pisano, president and CEO of Sanofi-Aventis' vaccine subsidiary Sanofi Pasteur, said: "Sanofi Pasteur's commitment to global health is exemplified by significant investments in vaccine production infrastructures. These efforts are aimed at meeting a world demand for vaccines expected to double by 2016.
"The new facility will provide high-end production work environment for dedicated people who produce vaccines for the world."
Construction of the 7,800 sq. m. facility began in 2006 and is due to be operational by the end of 2008. Once online the plant will be capable of filling 200m vials and syringes a year, doubling the current capacity of Sanofi's operations at Val de Reuil.
Sanofi's new facility is capable of producing vaccines effective against 20 diseases, including pandemic influenza strains. The plant has been designed with the capacity to quickly switch production once a pandemic flu strain is identified by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The rest of Sanofi's operations at Val de Reuil are also being revamped, with a $313m investment in new filling lines and a vaccine formulation building currently under construction.
These developments are the latest in the history of the site at Val de Reuil which has undergone significant improvements since first commencing operations in 1973.
In recent years rising demand from emerging markets has fueled the desire for increased capacity, as more people in China and India among others seek protection from seasonal flu.
This could push global vaccine production close to full capacity, especially with China recently stating its desire to vaccinate 20 per cent of the influenza target population, as opposed to the two per cent who are currently offered protection.
Moreover, the WHO is worried that current facilities would be unable to cope with demand in the event of a pandemic outbreak.