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Sanofi bets on DiCE to find oral alternatives to injectable drugs

Makes the US biotech's discovery engine a core part of its R&D portfolio

Sanofi 

Sanofi has made a small-molecule discovery engine developed by US biotech DiCE Molecules a core part of its R&D portfolio.

The French pharma group has signed an agreement with two-year-old DiCE to find drugs for a dozen disease targets over the next five years. All told, the deal could be worth $2.3bn to the Californian start-up.

DiCE's approach to drug discovery focuses on targeting protein-protein interactions that to date have only been addressed with large molecules such as antibodies rather than oral drugs. 

Sanofi said the collaboration covers targets "that encompass all disease areas of strategic significance" to the company and is the largest deal signed so far in its Sunrise initiative. 

Sunrise - originally set up by the French firm's R&D head Elias Zerhouni in 2012 - seeks partnerships with organisations that have innovative approaches to drug discovery that complement Sanofi's development expertise.

DiCE's platform - known as directed chemical evolution and pioneered by Stanford School of Medicine biochemist Pehr Harbury - can generate small-molecule drugs against any molecular target, according to the company.

Kevin Judice, DiCE's chief executive, said: "In the past, targeting protein-protein interfaces with small molecules was not thought possible in a generalisable fashion, especially in the development of orally bioavailable drugs. 

"Our platform is uniquely positioned to overcome these historical challenges and this partnership with Sanofi reinforces the potential of our technology."

Sanofi is paying $50m upfront and up to $184m per target in research, clinical and regulatory milestone payments, as well as royalties on sales of any drugs that reach the market, the companies said.

Other partnerships in Sanofi's Sunrise initiative include a $200m cardiomyopathy project with MyoKardia, and funding agreements with start-ups Warp Drive Bio - focusing on the use of genomics to discover natural-origin drugs - and drug delivery specialist Portal Instruments.

Article by
Phil Taylor

18th March 2016

From: Research

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