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Sanofi forges $1.5bn cancer partnership with BioNTech

Set to develop five cancer therapies
Sanofi

Sanofi made a foray into the emerging immuno-oncology sector today with a $1.5bn licensing agreement with BioNTech to develop up to five cancer therapies.

The deal includes a $60m upfront payment for the German biotech, as well as up to $300m in development, regulatory, and commercial milestones for each product candidate developed.

Each of the cancer immunotherapies will be based on mixtures of BioNTech's synthetic messenger RNA compounds, which can be used to make cells in the body produce therapeutic proteins.

The company's website notes that its cancer immunotherapies are based on RNA vaccines which target genetic mutations that are specific to patient tumours. The company's vaccination approach has already been tested in clinical trials in melanoma, breast cancer and a form of brain cancer (glioblastoma).

Earlier this year, BioNTech also forged a $360m alliance with Eli Lilly for the discovery of novel tumour targets and the development of T cell receptor (TCR) therapies for multiple cancer types, as well as a smaller $15m collaboration with Genmab.

BioNTech has agreed to supply part of the mRNA material needed for development activities from its in-house manufacturing facility, and has also claimed the right to co-develop and co-commercialise two of the five mRNA therapeutics products with Sanofi in the EU and the US.

There are already several oncologic-immunology drugs on the market, including Bristol-Myers Squibb's Yervoy (ipilimumab) and Opdivo (nivolumab) and Merck & Co.'s Keytruda (pembrolizumab), as well as Valeant/Dendreon's cancer vaccine Provenge (sipuleucel-T).

Sanofi has a strong heritage in cancer but the deal boosts its cancer R&D portfolio, which at the moment has relatively few cancer candidates coming through the mid- to late-stage pipeline and a handful of immuno-oncology candidates - including PD-1 inhibitor SAR428926 - in early-stage clinical testing.

"Immunotherapy has shown promise as an avenue to develop potentially curative treatments for people with cancer," said Elias Zerhouni, the company's head of global R&D. 

"Sanofi has strategically launched a number of inter-company collaborations in this area in recent months," he added, referring to earlier deals with Evotec and Apeiron, Regeneron and Selecta Biosciences.

News of the latest alliance came shortly after Sanofi reported underlying revenues growth of 3.4% to €9.58bn ($10.5bn) in the third quarter.

Declining sales in its diabetes franchise - and particularly basal insulin product Lantus (insulin glargine) in the US - were offset by growth for newer products such as multiple sclerosis therapies Aubagio (teriflunomide) and Lemtrada (alemtuzumab) and subsidiary Genzyme's rare disease portfolio.

Article by
Phil Taylor

4th November 2015

From: Sales

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