Sanofi taps Evotec for infectious disease discovery
- Evotec AG announced Thursday morning that it is in exclusive talks with Sanofi SA to solidify a deal whereby the French pharma will license a large portion of its infectious disease research and early-stage development portfolio to Evotec.
- Sanofi will pay Evotec an upfront fee of €60 million (or about $74 million) to support research and will transfer 10 of its infectious disease assets along with about 100 employees over to the German company. Sanofi will retain certain development and commercialization options, however.
- The collaboration will focus on discovering new anti-microbials with novel mechanisms of action, as well as new anti-viral medications. Evotec will lead all research at a facility near Lyon, France.
Notably, the transaction excludes Sanofi's vaccine business — a major sources of revenue. But the vaccines business is not Sanofi's only promising sector. Their rare disease franchise, under the Sanofi Genzyme banner, is driving a lot of business as well.
The move further signals Sanofi's move away from therapeutic areas that have been less profitable, while moving resources to areas of strength. This has been an ongoing trend for big pharmas as they consolidate their businesses around just a few key areas.
"Research in the field of anti-infectives is an area where building critical mass through partnering is particularly important," said Elias Zerhouni, president of global R&D for Sanofi, in a statement. "This new French-based open innovation center will benefit from the high-quality science ecosystem."
Drug discovery using an open innovation model like what's envisaged under the deal is a trend that's gaining steam. These alliances may help uncover previously unknown scientific overlaps that are not immediately apparent.
Niclas Nilsson, head of open innovation in research at LEO Pharma A/S, told BioPharma Dive that a common limitation to an open innovation agreement is provisions granting the innovation seeker the first right-of-refusal, which is the case in this Sanofi/Evotec deal.
"Many claim openness, but it should be defined and seen from an external partners perspective — often, 'open' is semi-open, as there are certain conditions and limitations," he warned. But, he added, "Open innovation removes restrictions and allows new and non-obvious exploration to happen, [which is] desperately needed for new anti-infectious medicine."
There have been no new classes of antibiotics discovered or approved for Gram-negative bacteria since 1962, according to Kevin Outterson of CARB-X, a company focused on harnessing innovation to fight drug-resistant bacteria, during a presentation at a recent conference on biomedical innovation in Copenhagen. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has officially recognized antibiotic resistance as a major worldwide public health problem.
- Evotec AG Press release