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Sanofi R&D day offers few surprises

A potential successor to anti-thrombotic Lovenox and a focus on biotech were some of the revelations at sanofi-aventis' first R&D day in two years in Paris on 17 September 2007

A potential successor to Lovenox (enoxaparin), S-A's top-selling thrombosis drug, and a focus on biotech, were some of the revelations at sanofi-aventis' (S-A) first R&D day in two years in Paris on 17 September 2007. 

Marc Cluzel, head of research at S-A, said the company "was in good shape" and was now ready to for more in-licensing and acquisitions.

Overall, the company expects to make 31 new submissions by 2010, and Cluzel speculated that 10 of those could potentially be blockbusters, with sales over USD 1bn. 

The company is continuing its focus on oncology, along with cardiometabolism, central nervous system, and vaccines.

"Since February our portfolio has been maturing ­ before then it was difficult," explained Cluzel.

"We are financially well-positioned and we are open for both product and company acquisitions. We are especially looking for a biotech company with production capabilities, as we are lacking in that area," said Cluzel.

The company also announced the late stage failure of Alzheimer's disease drug xaliproden, with resubmission planned for 2009.

Reports of the late stage failure of paliroden were confirmed by Jean-Marc Podvin, vice-president of media relations for S-A, who said it was no longer in the portfolio and was discontinued due to poor efficacy.

The company also announced it was planning to submit its obesity treatment Acomplia (rimonabant) for worldwide approval in 2009 for a new indication to treat type II diabetes, after clinical trials showed it was comparable with anti-diabetics.

A possible successor to S-A's best-selling anti-thrombotic Lovenox, which is already showing superior efficacy, was also announced.

At 20 mg, AVE 5026 is already showing 40 per cent less post-operative bleeding than Lovenox. It is more patient-friendly, with weekly rather than daily injections.

However it is likely to face tough competition from Boehringer-Ingelheim's drug dabigatran, an oral thrombin inhibitor and as a result is more patient friendly than Lovenox. It is also showed equal efficacy to Lovenox in a recent trial published in The Lancet.

Vaccines is also an area that S-A continues to investigate and plans to invest heavily, in order to preserve its leadership in core assets.

"Vaccines are the most interesting and offer the best value for cost," said Cluzel. 

Senior vice-president of commercial operations and corporate strategy of S-A's vaccine subsidiary sanofi-pasteur, Wayne Pisano, revealed positive results for a low dose bird flu vaccine that would enable increased stockpiling. 

S-A says small molecules will remain the cornerstone of its growth, as they can address all segments of needs from prevention to palliative treatment.

"We will enter into development of a minimum of 20 drug candidates per year, while increasing the number of biotech products," revealed Cluzel.

S-A said it was not overly concerned with the recent spate of drugs rejected by the FDA, including Acomplia.

"We will never go back to the 1990s where it was easy to register drugs but it takes time to recover after events like Vioxx," said Cluzel.

"We have taken the message that we need better evaluation. Our job is to prove to the US that we can do risk-management," continued Cluzel.

Despite a desire to appear more open, S-A has not appeased analysts, and its share price dropped on Monday and ended 2.3 per cent lower at EUR 60.8 following the meeting.

18th September 2007

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