A pair of oncology pacts
PARIS & MARSEILLE, France—Sanofi has kicked off the week by announcing two agreements in cancer. The first is a research collaboration and licensing agreement with Innate Pharma under which the companies will apply Innate Pharma's proprietary technology to develop bispecific antibody formats that engage natural killer (NK) cells to kill tumor cells via the activating receptor NKp46. NKp46, an activating receptor expressed on all NK cells, is the most specific marker of these cells and plays a significant role in tumor cell recognition. NKp46-bispecific NK cell engagers bind to an antigen with one arm at the surface of tumor cells and to the NKp46 receptor on NK cells with another arm, which results in activation and specific tumor-killing by NK cells.
"There is a lot of excitement around bispecifics in immuno-oncology. By building on our knowledge of the activating receptor NKp46, we have generated a technology to specifically induce tumor killing by NK cells. This new technology platform is complementary to our innovative portfolio of first-in-class antibodies targeting immune checkpoints. We intend to use it for our internal portfolio expansion, as well as through non-exclusive agreements with other companies, such as in this agreement with Sanofi," remarked Nicolai Wagtmann, Innate Pharma's chief scientific officer.
Sanofi and Innate Pharma will collaborate to generate and evaluate up to two bispecific NK cell engagers. Per the terms of the agreement, Sanofi will be responsible for development, manufacturing and commercialization of products that result from the deal, and will pay Innate Pharma up to €400 million (approximately $437.1 million) in development and commercial milestone payments as well as royalties on net sales.
"Over the past year, Sanofi has launched strategic corporate collaborations in the field of immuno- oncology that exemplify our commitment to open innovation in R&D and have the potential to transform the treatment of cancer," Gary Nabel, chief scientific officer at Sanofi, said in a press release. "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."
Sanofi also shared news that it had extended and reshaped its existing collaboration with Warp Drive Bio, using the latter's proprietary SMART (Small Molecule Assisted Receptor Targeting) and Genome Mining platforms for the discovery of novel oncology therapeutics and antibiotics. The companies have established a research collaboration and exclusive license to develop drugs targeting important human oncogenes, including RAS, and new antibiotics targeting Gram-negative bacteria. Warp Drive Bio will retain the rights to deploy its platforms to pursue discovery and development against all other targets, alone and in collaboration with other companies.
Per the terms of the deal, Warp Drive will lead the collaboration for five years, and Sanofi will be granted worldwide exclusive licenses to develop and commercialize the candidates discovered during the research term. Warp Drive stands to receive cumulative payments of more than $750 million across four successful collaboration programs, including an equity investment by Sanofi, research, clinical and regulatory milestones and research and development services.
The partners will focus initially on three oncology programs targeting different mutants and states of the RAS oncogenic protein. Warp Drive has an option to lead development of the therapeutic candidates from post-IND filing up to Phase 2 clinical studies, with Sanofi taking the lead on development through the filing of New Drug Applications. Sanofi will lead global commercial activities on any products resulting from the collaboration, and Warp Drive will have the option to co-commercialize oncology therapeutics in the United States. Sanofi will manage all ex-U.S. commercial activities, with Warp Drive receiving commercial milestones and tiered royalties on product sales.
Specifically, the antibiotic collaboration will focus on the discovery and development of novel Gram-negative therapeutics, with Sanofi leading development activities and assuming responsibility for global commercialization of the antibiotic products. Warp Drive will receive research, clinical, and regulatory milestones, plus tiered royalties and commercial milestones based on global sales.
"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 Dr. Elias Zerhouni, president, Sanofi, Global R&D. "This is an exciting collaboration for Sanofi as it could yield potentially lifesaving oncology and antibiotic therapies for patients by utilizing cutting-edge technology platforms."