- Sanofi executives said at a meeting with journalists this week in Boston that the company intends to be a market leader in multiple sclerosis (MS).
- Sanofi currently only has two MS products on the market, including the oral Aubagio (teriflunomide) and the infusion Lemtrada (alemtuzumab).
- The French drugmaker inked a collaboration agreement with ImmuNext in January to develop a CD40L antibody for MS and other diseases. The compound is currently pre-clinical and ImmuNext stands to gain $500 million in milestones.
Even as its diabetes franchise flails and the company is focusing closely on the potential approval and launch of its atopic dermatitis drug dupilumab next week, the French pharma is also pushing forward in the MS market.
The company has struggled in recent years to reinvent itself as some of its largest products, including the blockbuster insulin Lantus (glargine), face generic competition. Part of that reinvention is moving from a small molecule company, with nearly 90% of its pipeline being little white pills in 2011, to a biologics developer, with nearly 50% of pipeline being the large molecule drugs currently. Another part of that reinvention is focusing on new therapeutic areas, including chronic neurodegenerative disorders.
Carole Huntsman, global lead of Sanofi’s MS franchise, told reporters in Boston on March 21 that the company is currently working on a development plan for its one pipeline program in the debilitating neurodegenerative disease.
The company currently has a Phase 1 molecule dubbed GLD52, a next-gen anti-CD52 antibody, which it is developing for relapsing MS. Lemtrada, which also targets CD52, was the only MS drug to be considered cost-effective by Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) in a recent report— something that could help Sanofi get a leg up in the market.
The currently marketed franchise only brought in €1.74 billion ($1.88 billion) during the whole of 2016. By contrast, Biogen’s oral MS drug Tecfidera (dimethyl fumarate) brought in nearly $4 billion during 2016 despite safety issues that have hurt sales of the drug.
Biogen, for its part, has been turning its focus back to its legacy MS franchise in recent months after spinning out its hemophilia business and dismissing its CEO.
But Biogen isn’t the only competition in the space. Roche is bringing a highly anticipated MS therapy Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) to market. The approval of the drug was delayed by the Food and Drug Administration in December due to manufacturing problems, but is expected to be approved next week when its PDUFA date comes up on March 28. The drug has shown positive signs of efficacy in addressing an advanced form of the disease – primary progressive MS — that could open up the market for it.
Biogen agrees: company execs have said that they expect Ocrevus to grow the market — not steal share from their products.
Huntsman was optimistic that this would be the case as well, saying Ocrevus is not a competitive threat to Aubagio or Lemtrada.