PARIS—Sanofi and UCB are joining forces in a scientific and strategic collaboration to discover and develop innovative anti-inflammatory small molecules, which could provide new treatment options for a variety of immune-mediated diseases.
Per the terms of the agreement, Sanofi and UCB will share costs and profits on 50/50 basis. UCB is entitled to initial upfront, preclinical and clinical development milestone payments from Sanofi, which could total more than €100 million (approximately $138.3 million).
“We partner Sanofi’s significant expertise, strong capabilities and resources with UCB’s cutting- edge research skills and breakthrough innovations. Together we can maximize the opportunity to treat diseases currently treated by biologic agents with small molecules and thus benefit millions of people suffering from severe diseases,” Ismail Kola, president of UCB NewMedicines, commented in a statement.
UCB NewMedicines, UCB’s research arm, has identified small-molecule modulators of a certain biological pathway for which parenterally administered biologic therapies have demonstrated significant efficacy in patients. Sanofi and UCB will put together a team of scientists to work together in this discovery- and development-based collaboration to identify and characterize new possible therapies.
“Immune-mediated diseases affect individuals, families and communities and impact the economies of countries and nations, making this poorly understood category of diseases a significant public health burden,” Dr. Elias Zerhouni, president of Global R&D at Sanofi, said in a news release. “Joining efforts with UCB, we will address a scientific challenge in immunology, and increase the chances of accelerating the discovery and development of future therapies.”
This agreement fits into Sanofi’s growth strategy, says Jack Cox, corporate media relations, Sanofi, who adds that “Sanofi believes collaboration should start near the beginning if we want to transform early-stage discovery into breakthrough drugs for patients.”
“UCB is a skilled and reliable partner with deep experience in the field of immuno-inflammation,” Cox tells DDNews. “UCB has discovered small-molecule inhibitors with an innovative mechanism of action in an area of great interest for Sanofi.”
Immune-mediated diseases involve a large number of conditions, all of which are the result of overactive immune function and are often driven by inflammation. Some of the most common immune-mediated diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis and psoriasis.
Sanofi has a number of compounds in various stages of development targeting immune-mediated diseases. In Phase 1 development, Sanofi is advancing compounds for the treatment of Crohn’s disease and systemic lupus erythematosus, and in Phase 2, it has compounds targeting asthma, atopic dermatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and systemic sclerosis. In terms of late-stage compounds, Sanofi has a Phase 3 monoclonal antibody under development for rheumatoid arthritis and another monoclonal antibody indicated for multiple sclerosis.
UCB also has several compounds in its pipeline geared toward immunology, in indications such as systemic lupus erythematosus, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, axial spondyloarthritis and post-menopausal osteoporosis.
This is one of several agreements made by Sanofi so far this year. In early February, Sanofi and Regulus Therapeutics Inc. renewed their strategic alliance for the discovery, development and commercialization of microRNA therapeutics, which is focused on oncology targets as well as the orphan disease Alport Syndrome, a genetic kidney disease with no approved therapies. The companies’ alliance originated in 2010, and this renewal was accompanied by a $10 million investment in Regulus by Sanofi.
A few days after announcing the collaboration with UCB, Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division of Sanofi, announced a long-term strategic cooperation with SK Chemical Co., under which the partners will co-develop an innovative pneumococcal conjugate vaccine. Sanofi Pasteur will pay SK Chemicals $23 million up front, and both companies will co-invest in the development of the vaccine. Should it prove successful, SK Chemicals will produce the vaccine at its An-dong production facility in southern Korea. Once registered, Sanofi Pasteur would launch it globally, with shared profits outside of Korea, where SK Chemicals would commercialize the vaccine with exclusive rights.