An agreement was signed between Chinese Authorities and Sanofi-Aventis which would allow the building of Sanofi Pasteur vaccine facility in Shenzhen. "China is joining a number of countries focussing on prevention of diseases and recognising the value of vaccines. The time is right for Sanofi Pasteur to further invest in China and prepare to provide this fast growing market with the most modern vaccines to be produced in a state of the industry facility," Sanofi-Aventis chief executive Gerard Le Fur said in a statement. The plant would be built with the aim of providing a source of influenza vaccines for the local population, which could be revved up to produce pandemic influenza vaccine in China in the event of a human influenza pandemic. "The Shenzhen government commends this decision to invest in a Sanofi Pasteur influenza vaccine manufacturing facility in Shenzhen. It materialises 10 years of excellent collaboration between Sanofi-Aventis and the Shenzhen government. It is also a milestone in the history of Shenzhen biological industry development," Shenzhen mayor Xu Zongheng said in a statement. Construction of the facility is due to start next year with the aim to be operational for the Chinese seasonal vaccine market by 2012. Future investment may be made in the site to keep pace with the anticipated growth of the Chinese vaccine market. Sanofi Pasteur already operates a facility in Shenzhen. Back in July, the company completed construction of its new $150m US facility. The 140,000sq ft. plant in Swiftwater will see it manufacturing more than 100 million doses of influenza vaccine per year. The company is also expanding its influenza vaccine capacity in France where it is investing €200m into a formulation and filling facility in Val de Reuil, expected to be completed about 2010. Currently, the company's global capacity for influenza vaccine is 175 million doses - 50 million in the US and 125 million in France - representing about 40 per cent of the global capacity for influenza vaccine. The company wants to increase its global capacity to be between 250 and 300 million doses within three years. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates global flu vaccine capacity is at fewer than 400 million doses a year, and current demand hitting 300 million doses a year. WHO claims the industry is woefully under-prepared for a pandemic that could shoot demand up by 20 times. About 200,000 people are hospitalized in the US every year with influenza. An additional 36,000 people die annually from the disease. If a pandemic occurred without a vaccine, the WHO estimates that at least 50 million people could die. In the 1918-1919 Spanish flu outbreak, 50 million people died. Sanofi had its H5N1 vaccine approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in April. The company is currently using its proprietary novel adjuvant in its H5N1 vaccine to enhance the immune response.