- Sanofi and South Korea-based Hanmi Pharmaceutical have agreed to partner on development of three diabetes drugs, including the GLP-1 agonist, efpeglenatide; a weekly insulin analog; and a combo drug that combines both drugs.
- The $4.2 billion deal is structured so that Sanofi pays Hanmi $435 million up front, in addition to a potential $3.8 billion in milestone payments as the collaboration progresses.
- Sanofi, which has historically had a strong position in diabetes because of its insulin Lantus, is looking to shore up its portfolio as Lantus loses patent protection and other companies such as Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk introduce new therapies to the market.
Sanofi is still reeling from the loss of exclusivity on Lantus, since Eli Lilly and Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) won approval for their biosimilar version (Basaglar in the U.S., Abrasia in the E.U.) of this long-acting insulin last year. Despite its efforts to prevent entry of Basaglar into the market, a settlement has been reached and Basaglar will launch in December 2016.
This will undoubtedly put a dent in Sanofi's already weakening revenue forecasts for its diabetes franchise, especially considering the fact that Lantus is a $7 billion-per-year drug.
There is also a great deal of competitive pressure from other companies with a strong presence in the diabetes market, including Novo Nordisk, Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, and AstraZeneca. And despite having launched both Toujeo and Afrezza earlier this year, uptake for both drugs has been relatively disappointing.
Nonetheless, Sanofi is still a major player and betting on a refreshed pipeline to secure a stronger foothold in a market that it has largely dominated for many years.