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Sanofi makes moves with strategic $2.4 billion Ablynx nanobody deal

Published on 20/07/17 at 10:02am

Sanofi is steadily recovering from missing out on Actelion to J&J by making another deal, this time with Ablynx biotech to gain access to eight nanobody candidates. The deal adds to a €250 million deal agreed a few months ago with Exscientia to discover and develop small molecules in diabetes.

It seems that Sanofi, after having missed out on two larger deals in the form of Medivation and Actelion, have backed off the larger proposals to take on smaller agreements to develop its pipeline. This particular deal with Ablynx is relatively low risk, despite there being a potential $2.4 billion on the table, as the deal itself only features an up-front fee of $23 million.

The rest of the deal is tied into milestone payments that will depend on the success of the targets Sanofi chooses from Ablynx. It has the potential to pick eight targets from Ablynx’s pipeline, it also will gain access to Ablynx’s scientists and proprietary nanobody platform. In return, Ablynx will receive $8 million to further research into selected targets.

Ablynx has already signed deals with other big pharma,s including AbbVie, Boehringer, Novartis, MSD and Merck KGaA. Sanofi is then adding to growing interest in Ablynx’s nanobodies, which are derived from the naturally occurring antibodies found in camels and llamas. Due to the small size and structure of the antibodies, they are able to become the building blocks for novel biological drugs.

The deal makes sense from Ablynx’s perspective, as it had struggled to ensure it had a healthy cash reserves to tap into after facing the familiar struggle for fledgling biotechs to build revenue.

Frank Nestle, Sanofi’s Global Head of Immunology Therapeutic Research Area and CSO, North America, commented: “This collaboration is the latest example of Sanofi’s strategic commitment to expand our drug discovery pipeline in immunology at a time when we are launching new treatments for atopic dermatitis and rheumatoid arthritis. We are particularly excited by the Ablynx technology as a leading biologics platform, enabling the development of transformative multi-targeting treatment approaches. Through external partnerships like these, combined with our internal R&D expertise, we aim to transform the treatment landscape for patients living with autoimmune and inflammatory conditions.”

For Sanofi, this could be the way forward to build its pipeline in the short-term future, providing what could be regarded as better value for money. However, after missing out on two deals, there will still be pressure to close a larger deal to regain investor confidence.

Ben Hargreaves

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