Vertolaye: a committed site engaged, a unique expertise

As a reference site for Sanofi, Vertolaye is specialized in the micronization of powders used in many pharmaceutical products. This expert site is also engaged in promoting training and employment of young people locally.

The Vertolaye site celebrates 80 years of know-how and innovation in fine chemistry

Specialized in fine chemicals, the Vertolaye plant in Puy-de-Dôme produces 65 active ingredients for pharmaceutical use and supplies numerous Sanofi sites with micronized powders, in France and abroad. A major employer in the region, with 800 employees, the site is also committed to training and passing on know-how to younger generations.

Located in the heart of the Massif Central mountains, the Vertolaye plant has been manufacturing pharmaceutical products since 1939. Specialized in complex chemical processes and micronization*, a grinding process that increases the bioavailability* of powders, it produces active ingredients for pharmaceuticals, used to manufacture numerous medicines (anti-inflammatory steroids and non-steroids, antibiotics, diuretics, muscle relaxants, antidepressants ...) in different galenic forms (tablets, syrups, inhalants or injectable medicines).

Our active ingredients are produced to supply Sanofi factories worldwide and also for third parties. We are experts in complex processes. Our teams master a wide range of skills involving reactions in synthetic chemistry and our know-how in micronization is unique within Sanofi, site director says.

An asset for the region and its young people

At a time of a strong exodus from rural regions to the cities,the Vertolaye site is focused on the employment of the region’s young people and is involved in transmitting its know-how and supporting them in becoming qualified. In 2011, we created with Greta* a program for gaining experience in chemistry through work-study for future production operators. At the end of this training, 90% of young people obtain a temporary or permanent position on the site. At all job levels, offering internships and work-study contracts and tutoring new recruits is a priority.
37% of the 200 technicians hired (Bac +2 or +3) arrived through work-study or an internship. The Vertolaye site has also entered into a partnership with the SIGMA-Clermont engineering school of chemistry and mechanics and welcomes students for their first-year work internship and an engineering internship in their second or third year. We hired a dozen engineers from this school, two of them are now members of the management committee.

A commitment to diversity

The plant is also involved in the Capital Girls association, which helps young girls find a job, as part of the PAQTE program to promote the integration of youth from working-class neighborhoods through work-study programs. The proportion of women on the Vertolaye site is now 21% and continues to grow.
"They represent today one out of two near hires and already 50% of our managers. Vertolaye is an attractive plant; our goal is to encourage young people in the region to join, stay and flourish," concludes the site director.

A chemical production site for active ingredients in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region

Specialized in the production of active ingredients for pharmaceutical use, this chemical site has been located in the heart of the Natural Regional Park of Livradois-Forez since 1939. The site has a wide range of chemistry know-how, including corticosteroids, hormones and various syntheses, producing for different Sanofi entities or third parties. The site has unique expertise in the micronization of powders and is a grinding center for Sanofi.

3 questions to Alain Guillaume, head of the solid development center

Alain Guillaume
Alain Guillaume

What is the importance of micronization* of pharmaceutical active ingredients?

Alain Guillaume. This method is reducing the size of the active ingredient particles to a few microns and thus increases their contact surface and their bioavailability so that they are better absorbed. It's like going from granular sugar to icing sugar: it takes 10 times less time to dissolve in water!

Can you give us an example of a medicine for which this method is used?

AG. - Micronization is used for inhalation treatment of asthma: it can pass the pulmonary barrier and penetrate the micro-alveoli of the lung. The process is also used to make the powders that go into the composition of certain tablets, ensuring an extremely homogeneous distribution of the active ingredient.

In what way is Vertolaye's expertise unique?

AG. - We manufacture 65 active ingredients with more than 500 often complex chemical stages (comparable to the steps of a kitchen recipe); this is enormous for an industrial site. Within these 65 active ingredients, a large part is micronized. This is the only unit dedicated to micronization in the Sanofi group. We bring our expertise to the Vertolaye site but also to the whole world. We have seven micronization rooms to meet the needs of multiple customers. We also offer them solid state characterization*, a step that has become major in the registration of medicines.

Key figures


  • 65 active ingredients made on the site and more than 500 chemical stages
  • Nearly 300 customers in 63 countries

Employment and training

  • 800 employees + 100 service providers employed on the site
  • 80 young people, 80% of whom come from priority neighborhoods in the city and rural areas
  • 21% women ... 50% of new hires
  • 42 work-study participants in 2019-2020, or 6% of the workforce

*The glossary to understand everything

  • Micronization: grinding of powders by air jet to reach a sufficiently fine particle size for better bioavailability.
  • Bioavailability: The amount of active ingredient of a medicine that is absorbed in the body after intake, and found in the blood to show efficiency before being eliminated
  • Solid state characterization: analysis of a solid substance to determine its physical and chemical characteristics.
  • Greta: Group of public educational institutions - Ministry of National Education

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