- Sanofi will pay $1 billion to acquire privately held Amunix Pharmaceuticals and its cancer immunotherapy technology in a deal announced Tuesday by the French pharmaceutical company.
- Amunix, which was founded in 2006 and is based in California, could receive as much as $225 million more from Sanofi should it hit certain unspecified development milestones. Its most advanced cancer drug candidate is set to enter clinical testing next year.
- Amunix specializes in protein engineering and has developed a technology platform meant to enable delivery of biologic drugs more specifically, and safely, to diseased tissue. While the biotech has operated since 2006, it more recently raised $190 million in venture backing to fund development of a pipeline of immunotherapy drugs for cancer.
Sanofi's Amunix acquisition adds to an active year of dealmaking for the French pharma, which has spent more than $6 billion in 2021 to buy Kymab, Tidal Therapeutics, Translate Bioand Kadmon Holdings.
The acquisitive streak is part of a plan by Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson to reenergize the company's research and development work, particularly in areas like oncology and immunology. Along with Tidal and Amunix, both of which are focused on immuno-oncology, Sanofi has also previously bought cancer biotechs Kiadis Pharma and Synthorx under Hudson's leadership.
Those deals have helped fill out a cancer drug pipeline that now includes about 20 molecules in development, including several that Sanofi expects could become future top-sellers.
Amunix appears to have drawn Sanofi's interest for its technology as much as its lead drug candidate, which is aimed at the well-known breast cancer target HER2. Specifically, Amunix is working on what are known as T cell engagers, proteins that link immune cells to cancerous cells, and cytokine-based therapies.
For years, Amunix operated as a technology licensing company, partnering with other drugmakers that wanted to use its platforms for extending the half-life of drugs or to create "prodrugs," therapies that become active through metabolization or in specific tissue settings.
One of the drugs that relied on Amunix's extended half-life technology, originally developed by Biogen for hemophilia, is now in Sanofi's hands after the French pharma bought Bioverativ in 2018.
In 2020, however, Amunix raised $73 million from Omega Funds and more than half a dozen other venture firms to pivot to developing T cell engagers and cytokines for cancer. A Series B round in March 2021 added another $117 million.
Sanofi, in its statement on the deal, signaled its hopes that Amunix's technology, which can block activation of drugs in healthy tissue, could help enable safer therapies that sidestep some of the immune activation side effects that come with bispecific antibodies being developed by many drugmakers.
Along with Amunix's lead drug targeting HER2, the company has others in development that are designed to go after PSMA and EGFR, two other well-known targets. Sanofi said it expects Amunix's technology could be applied to a "wide range of existing and potentially new pipeline assets."
Sanofi and Amunix anticipate their deal will close in the first quarter of next year.