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Sanofi taps Evotec for new anti-infectives drive

The duo will set up the initiative at Sanofi’s R&D unit in France

Sanofi

Sanofi is in advanced negotiations with German biotech Evotec about setting up a new open innovation platform to develop new drugs for infectious diseases, according to the two companies.

The idea is to set up an Evotec-led initiative at Sanofi’s R&D unit in Lyons, France - open to collaboration with academia, industry, foundations and government agencies - with the aim of developing new drugs for bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic infections. Initially the activities of the group will focus on antimicrobials with new mechanisms of action that could help tackle the growing problem of drug resistance.

Earlier this year, an independent report looking at the pharma industry’s efforts to tackle antimicrobial resistance (AMR) said the sector is still not on track to avert a potential healthcare crisis.

The idea is for Sanofi to transfer around 100 employees - which is effectively its entire research unit in this area minus vaccines - over to Evotec along with more than ten infectious disease R&D programmes to get the platform underway. The pharma group will also make an upfront payment of €60m (around $74m) in startup funding plus what it says is “significant” ongoing financial support.

Evotec has been building capabilities in infectious disease research since acquiring Euprotek (UK) in 2014. According to the company’s chief executive Werner Lanthaler, the open innovation model is imperative for the initiative as “finding a way to motivate more public funding and academic initiatives for the progress of novel anti-infectives on Evotec’s platform will be a key success factor”.

The spin-out of what was once a core component of Sanofi’s R&D activities in part reflects the challenging nature of anti-infectives research but also changing priorities at the French drugmaker, which is in the midst of a major revamp of its pipeline following the acquisitions of Ablynx and Bioverativ.

The deals have boosted Sanofi’s position in rare diseases and haematology at a time when it is facing a slowdown in its core diabetes franchise and has suffered some late-stage pipeline setbacks, including big problems for new dengue fever vaccine Dengvaxia.

“Sanofi has a long and established history in the fight against infectious diseases, and we remain committed to addressing global health challenges through our development efforts and vaccines,” said Elias Zerhouni, head of R&D at Sanofi.

“Research in the field of anti-infectives is an area where building critical mass through partnering is particularly important.”

Article by
Phil Taylor

8th March 2018

From: Sales

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