- European biotech Ablynx announced Thursday morning that it has inked a deal with Sanofi to develop nanobody-based drugs for immune-mediated inflammatory diseases.
- Ablynx will get €23 million ($26.6 million) upfront through the deal, as well as €8 million ($9.2 million) in research funding for the initially selected targets. The biotech will also be eligible for milestones and royalties.
- Should Sanofi choose to opt into other targets, it will pay further exercise fees and research funding. Sanofi will be responsible for development, commercialization and manufacturing of any product candidates.
Sanofi has been trying to rebound for ages from dwindling sales of its blockbuster diabetes franchise, but has failed to secure some big deals. Yet, in recent months, its immunology and specialty drug unit — Sanofi Genzyme, along with partner Regeneron — has secured some big approval wins that are reigniting the French pharma's pipeline.
Dupixent (dupilimab) and Kevzara (sarilumab), for instance, recently locked down Food and Drug Administration approval. Sanofi has been investing more in its immunology pipeline as well; the deal announced today with Ablynx will help the bigger drugmaker flesh out that pipeline, even if it's not the massive transaction that the company and its investors are really looking for.
The shift in focus away from diabetes is not surprising. Sales of Lantus (insulin glargine) fell by almost 10% in 2016, and look set to decline further as payers put more pressure on the space and competition increases.
For Ablynx, Sanofi is just the latest big pharma partner. The company has other tie ups with the likes of Boehringer Ingelheim, Merck & Co., Merck KGaA and Novartis.
In late-2016, AbbVie opted out of development of a rheumatoid arthritis drug with Ablynx. Despite Phase 2 data that Ablynx says proves vobarilizumab is superior to Roche's already approved Actemra (tocilizumab), the IL-6R drug is of no interest to AbbVie any longer. Ablynx says it will pursue the drug on its own.