- AstraZeneca has enlisted Sanofi to help push its newest drug for infant respiratory illness in children through the pipeline. The deal pairs MedImmune, the British drugmaker's biologics development subsidiary, with Sanofi Pasteur, the French pharma's vaccine business, to develop MEDI8897.
- The monoclonal antibody is in Phase 2b testing as a preventative treatment for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in preterm infants who cannot receive Synagis (palivizumab), another AstraZeneca drug and the current standard-of-care for the illness.
- MedImmune is in charge of pushing the drug through approval, at which point Sanofi takes control of commercialization efforts. The two business' parent companies plan to split costs and profits pertaining to the drug equally. Sanofi has also agreed to pay its partner €120 million ($127 million) upfront and as much as $522.5 million in milestone payments.
Partnerships within big pharma aren't particularly common, given that the players spend most of their time jostling with each other for dominance in a therapeutic area or technology platform. When those pairings do arise, they usually stem from the need to bring a new product to market fast, and collaborating with a heavyweight that has capital and know-how can streamline the process.
AstraZeneca and Sanofi fit that bill.
For AstraZeneca, another marketed drug would help beef up its waning respiratory revenues, which fell 3% to $4.75 billion in 2016 due mostly to U.S. pricing pressures that contributed to a 10% slide in sales for blockbuster drug Symbicort (budesonide/formoterol fumarate dihydrate).
Synagis, meanwhile, is still performing well following its loss of patent exclusivity in 2015 — albeit there are no generic competitors. U.S. sales for the drug rose 14% last year as a result of market demand, according to AstraZeneca's 2016 financial results.
“By combining our development expertise and leadership in RSV with Sanofi Pasteur’s significant global experience in commercializing pediatric vaccines we hope to provide an RSV disease prevention approach for all infants, both term and pre-term," Bahija Jallal, the head of MedImmune, said in a March 3 statement.
On Sanofi's end, honing in on five core business — vaccines being one — and expanding R&D collaborations have been part of the companies strategy since 2015. An approval of MEDI8897 would keep the ball rolling for its vaccine unit, which saw sales increase 8.8% to nearly $4.6 billion in 2016.