Sanofi sells therapy cells: Aastrom buys products and plants

By Gareth Macdonald

- Last updated on GMT

Aastrom adds cell therapies for knee damage to portfolio
Aastrom adds cell therapies for knee damage to portfolio
Aastrom Biosciences will pay Sanofi $6.5m (EUR4.7m) for its cell therapy business in a deal that gives the cash strapped regenerative medicines developer three commercial products.

The Michigan, US-based firm announced the deal this week, explaining that it will gain commercial rights to the cartilage therapies Carticel and MACI and a skin replacement product for burns victims named Epicel. 

According to Sanofi filings, the products generated combined revenue of $44m last year. 

Through the deal – which is expected to close in the next three weeks - Aastrom will also acquire the former Genzyme manufacturing centres in the US and Denmark at which the three cell-therapy products are made.

Sanofi spokeswoman Sarah Conners told the facility Aastrom is buying in Cambridge, Massachusetts “is a fully-integrated manufacturing site for the development and commercialization of cell-based therapies.

The production of three cellular therapies for clinical and commercial distribution worldwide occurs at the facility” ​she continued, adding that “The site provides a wide range of specialties such as engineering, process and technology development, quality control, quality assurance and manufacturing​.”

Connors added that: “The manufacturing site in Copenhagen produces the cell therapy product MACI​.”

Aastrom CEO Nick Colangelo described the acquisition as a “transformative transaction​,” citing the marketed products as a key driver.

He also said the Sanofi R&D and manufacturing sites “provides us with a platform to generate operating income to support the development of our high-potential pipeline products and continued growth through additional strategic transactions​.”


This positive outlook is in marked contrast with comments Colangelo made this time last year when, just a few days after his appointment, he announced that Aastrom had halted enrolment in a Phase III trial of a critical limb ischemia therapy​.

In subsequent months the US firm worked to reduce costs, sacking nearly half of its 71-strong workforce and focusing on the development of its lead product, ixmyelocel-T, for the treatment of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). 

The cutbacks appear to have had the desired effect. According to fiscal 2013 results​ Aastrom released last month losses fell to $15.6m from $29.5m in the previous financial year, while R&D spending dropped to $15m from $26m.

Manufacturing moves

Aastrom produces its candidate products for trials at its cell manufacturing facility in Ann Arbor using a culturing process that employs single-use cell cassettes provided by technology firm Vention Medical.

In Previous statements Aastrom has said: “The facility supports the current US clinical trials and has sufficient capacity, with minor modifications, to supply our early commercialization requirements.

We may establish and operate larger commercial-scale cell manufacturing facilities for the US market in the future to accommodate potential market growth.

The firm did not respond when asked how the planned Sanofi acquisition fits with this plan.

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