‘Attracting success’

Evotec, Sanofi launch multifaceted strategic alliance with outsourcing, library sharing

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HAMBURG, Germany—Negotiations that began last December have culminated in a major multicomponent strategic alliance for Evotec AG and Sanofi that will extend over the next five years. The companies have signed a definitive agreement for a discovery service collaboration that will include initiatives with both of Evotec’s business segments, EVT Execute and EVT Innovate. Under the agreement, Sanofi will pay Evotec a minimum guaranteed commitment of €250 million (about $278 million), including an upfront cash payment of more than €40 million.
 
“Sanofi is pleased to welcome Evotec as a new strategic partner in France. We highly value this collaboration, which will reinforce Toulouse Biopark as a major biomedical research platform in Europe and create a field of opportunities for our employees, while contributing to the vitality of the local ecosystem,” Dr. Elias Zerhouni, president of Global R&D for Sanofi, noted in a press release.
 
One part of the alliance is an outsourcing agreement that stipulates that Evotec will provide Sanofi with a range of long-term drug discovery services, centered on the small-molecule discovery platforms in Toulouse. Evotec will also take charge of managing Sanofi’s global screening compound library. Another facet of the alliance is the French academic bridge, a joint effort in which Evotec will scout and incubate projects launched in France into the pipeline of its Cure X/Target X strategy. A third initiative consists of Evotec and Sanofi jointly progressing a portfolio of primarily oncology-related projects—which includes five advanced, preclinical projects and other discovery-stage assets—to IND stage or other value inflection points before partnering them.
 
“When they looked at Evotec, Sanofi saw a company who is highly competent at providing external services, which is one function that we will take over for them as an outsourcing partner, and on the other hand, a partner that can potentially add significant value to the pipeline,” says Dr. Werner Lanthaler, CEO of Evotec, adding that “In the small-molecule space, it was really something where our capabilities and capacities were the perfect match for them, and we are very, very happy with that.”
 
Additionally, having acquired Sanofi’s facility in Toulouse, France, Evotec will integrate the facility’s capabilities into its global drug discovery infrastructure, where they will help boost collaborative research with Evotec’s industry partners.
 
And in what is likely the most innovative aspect of the alliance, Sanofi and Evotec will combine their compound libraries and make them available for screening to Evotec’s business partners. Together, their libraries will have roughly 1.7 million compounds available to be screened.
 
“In the world of big pharma, it has always been the Holy Grail to open the small-molecule library to outsourcing partners and to external partners, because everyone always kept their library for themselves. And this was more a question of principles than a question of rational drug discovery behavior. And what Sanofi and we are doing right now is really groundbreaking in a sense that for the first time, a large library owned by a large pharma is combined with a smaller library, Evotec’s library, and the combination of both libraries can be offered to whoever wants to go for a novel drug discovery effort,” says Lanthaler.
 
“This is quite powerful because, for example, biotech companies so far never had access to the library of a large pharma company. And through this transaction, biotech companies who will work with us at Evotec will have access to both libraries,” he continues. “We don’t have any set business plan of how much revenue this will generate or whatever, we really did it because we thought, we want to signal to the biotech industry and also to pharma that in the world of drug discovery, new paths have to be opened in order to just accelerate the way to novel drug targets. And that’s the initiative that we see here.”
 
Lanthaler tells DDNews that they are already fielding interest from biotech companies about the opportunity represented by the combined libraries.
 
“As always, success is attracting success, so I think both parties, Sanofi and Evotec, now have shown with a substantial commitment that we want to make this work,” he notes. “And I think there are several legs that we have put behind this initiative so that we can really run, which I think is also important, because one thing was clear to us: just aligning on one project and then in the small-molecule world, living with attrition would just be potentially not sustainable.
 
“We have created now significant initiatives in the outsourcing world, in the innovation world, that we are going to build together … we fully believe in the outsourcing alliance that we have created with them, we absolutely believe that the joint library makes total sense, we absolutely believe that the French academic bridge is a long-term success, we absolutely believe that the combination of the compound management strategy that we have built. We believe the innovation project that we want to create together is the right way forward,” Lanthaler concludes.


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