Sanofi enters cancer drug-development deals with Warp Drive, Innate Pharma

Sanofi announced Monday deals with Warp Drive Bio and Innate Pharma potentially worth up to $1.2 billion to develop new cancer drugs. The agreement with Warp Drive, which also covers the development of antibiotics, includes funding and milestones in excess of $750 million, while the partnership with Innate Pharma comprises milestones of up to 400 million euros ($436 million).

Under the first deal, which expands an existing agreement, Sanofi will utilise Warp Drive's SMART and genome mining platforms to discover oncology therapeutics and antibiotics targeting Gram-negative bacteria. The companies have entered into a research alliance and exclusive license focused on the development of drugs targeting human oncogenes, with an initial focus on three programmes targeting different mutants and states of the RAS oncogenic protein.

Warp Drive will lead the collaboration for a period of five years and is eligible to receive payments from Sanofi across four successful programmes, including an equity investment, research, clinical and regulatory milestones, and R&D services. "Our partnership with Warp Drive is a perfect example of open innovation which allows Sanofi to collaborate with innovative companies and combine unique areas of expertise to advance drug development in a meaningful way," commented Elias Zerhouni, president of global R&D at Sanofi.

As part of the deal, Warp Drive has an option to lead development of the therapeutic candidates from post-IND filing up to Phase II studies, with Sanofi heading development through the filing of marketing applications. Further, Sanofi will lead global commercial activities on any products resulting from the collaboration, while Warp Drive has the option to co-commercialise oncology therapeutics in the US. Warp Drive is also eligible to receive commercial milestones and tiered royalties on product sales.

Meanwhile, the companies noted that Sanofi will lead all development activities covered under the antibiotic collaboration. Sanofi will be responsible for global commercialisation of any products and will pay Warp Drive research, clinical and regulatory milestones, plus tiered royalties and commercial milestones based on global sales.

The second agreement will apply Innate Pharma's technology to the development of bispecific antibody formats engaging natural killer (NK) cells to kill tumour cells through the activating receptor NKp46. Sanofi and Innate Pharma said they will work together on the generation and evaluation of up to two bispecific NK cell engagers, using technology from both companies as well as tumour targets. Under the agreed licence terms, Sanofi will be responsible for the development, manufacturing and commercialisation of products, with Innate Pharma eligible to receive development and commercial milestone payments, along with royalties on net sales.

Gary Nabel, chief scientific officer at Sanofi, remarked "working with Innate Pharma, we seek to create new bispecific antibodies that will focus the immune system to kill cancer cells by engaging natural killer cells." Shares in Innate Pharma jumped as much as 15 percent on the news.

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