Sanofi and ImmuNext have signed a deal to develop treatments for a range of autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and multiple sclerosis, the companies said in a release on Monday.
The agreement provides Sanofi with exclusive worldwide manufacturing and marketing rights to ImmuNext's preclinical drug INX-021. The monoclonal antibody works to calm a cellular pathway for a protein called CD40L (or CD154), which regulates immune response and contributes to autoimmune diseases and chronic inflammation if it becomes hyperactive.
The companies revealed they plan to launch a research collaboration to support clinical testing of the drug. Immunext could get up to $500 million in potential milestone payments, plus up to double-digit tiered royalties on product sales, through the deal.
Preclinical data for treatments targeting the CD40L protein have been promising and offer a means for "long-term remission" in a variety of autoimmune diseases, Immunext's Chief Scientific Officer Randolph Noelle said in a Jan. 9 statement.
Noelle's company recently partnered up with another big biopharma player: In December, Immunext forged an agreement with Roche worth up to $400 million in potential milestone payments to develop novel therapeutics for inflammation and autoimmune diseases.
Similar to the Sanofi transaction, Roche took home exclusive, global licensing rights to the therapies, which serve as agonists to the V-region immunoglobulin-containing suppressor of T-cell activation (VISTA) signaling pathway, while ImmuNext remains eligible for tiered royalties up to double digits on product sales.
The company also started collaborating with Hoffmann-LaRoche last month on an anti-VISTA product for treating multiple inflammatory diseases. In September 2012, Johnson & Johnson's Janssen began working with the company of its lead anti-VISTA product, JNJ-61610588, which is now in Phase 1 testing as a cancer treatment.
For its part, Sanofi is "committed to expanding our pipeline of specialty care products in multiple sclerosis, where we have established a strong foundation, and immunology, where we are poised to launch new treatments this year for atopic dermatitis and rheumatoid arthritis,” Frank Nestle, the Swiss biopharma's global head of immunology and inflammation research therapeutic area, said in the statement.