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Sanofi and Evotec to work together on diabetes and cancer

Willfocus on beta cell-modulating diabetes treatments and immuno-oncology therapies

Sanofi 

Sanofi has teamed up with Evotec to develop beta cell-modulating diabetes treatments which could eliminate the need for insulin injections.

Meanwhile, the two companies have also agreed to work together with Apeiron Biologics on novel, small-molecule immuno-oncology therapies.

The two agreements come in the wake of a €250m strategic alliance between Sanofi and Evotec - signed in March - that will see the two companies work together on a variety of research initiatives over a five-year period. As part of that deal Evotec took over scientific operations and related employees at Sanofi's Toulouse site. 

The new diabetes collaboration between the two companies will focus on the creation of functional beta cells - the cells in the pancreas responsible for producing insulin in response to glucose levels - from human stem cells.

The beta cells will be used for screening drugs that can improve insulin release, but potentially could also be transplanted directly in the body to serve as a replacement for cells that are no longer functional in diabetes.

Sanofi noted that beta cells play a major role in the pathogenesis of diabetes, which currently affects 387 million patients around the world.

In early-onset or type 1 diabetes, the beta cells of the pancreas no longer make insulin because the body's immune system has attacked and destroyed them. Meanwhile, in the more common type 2 form, the beta cells gradually lose their responsiveness to glucose levels and insulin production declines.

The deal will see Evotec receive an upfront fee of €3m as well as development, regulatory and commercial milestone payments, which could total more than €300m and royalties on net sales.

Last year, scientists at Harvard University in the US reported creating for the first time large quantities of beta cells from human embryonic stem cells, suggesting that transplant trials could be underway within a few years.

The team subsequently forged an alliance with AstraZeneca (AZ), so  Sanofi and AZ are now going toe-to-toe in a race to develop beta cell-based therapies for diabetes.

Cancer collaboration

Meanwhile, the three-way collaboration with Austrian firm Apeiron is focusing on drugs that boost the anti-tumour activity of the human immune system and are expected to "complement the current offerings of checkpoint inhibitors", which include Bristol-Myers Squibb's Opdivo (nivolumab) and Merck & Co's Keytruda (pembrolizumab).

Sanofi will support two years of research funding for Evotec and Apeiron and could potentially yield more than €200m in milestones if promising candidates come through to market.

The new research agreements are a boost for Evotec after an Alzheimer's disease therapy partnered with Roche disappointed in a phase II trial reported earlier this summer.

Article by
Phil Taylor

10th August 2015

From: Research

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