Sanofi pulls plug on four Ph III drugs

By Gareth Macdonald

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Sanofi Clinical trial Clopidogrel

Sanofi-Aventis has halted development of four Phase III drugs in a “rigorous” pre-patent loss pipeline review that has also seen it drop four Phase II candidates and six Phase I projects.

The French drugmaker, which posted a 15 per cent leap in Q1 operating profit beating analyst estimates, said it is refocusing its R&D efforts according to both scientific and commercial criteria.

The four abandoned Phase III candidates include the antidepressant saredutant and the blood pressure drug AVE5530, which failed to demonstrated sufficient efficacy in clinical studies.

Sanofi has also halted work on its Phase III combination vaccine Unifive in favour of continuing the development of Hexaxim which, in addition to diphtheria, hepatitis B and haemophilus influenzae type B, also protects against polio.

RetinoStat replaces Trovax in Oxford deal

The final Phase III drug being dropped by Sanofi is the cancer vaccine Trovax, which has been handed back to UK headquartered development partner Oxford Biomedica along with a $16.5m (€12.5m) termination payment.

While this is obviously a blow for the UK firm, the companies will continue to work together to develop treatments for eye diseases using Oxford's LentiVector gene delivery technology.

The firms’ new agreement includes an age-related macular degeneration (AMD) treatment called RetinoStat which, given yesterday’s deal between Pfizer and UCL and existing products like Lucentis, may see eye disease emerge as a major battle ground in the post CV blockbuster era.

The cuts leave Sanofi with a pipeline of 51 drugs, 21 of which are under regulatory review or in Phase III trials. The firm said that it may also pull four more products, AVE1625, xaliprodene, idrabiotaparinux and a West Nile virus vaccine, in the next few months.

CEO Christopher Viebacher, who has sped up Sanofi’s pipeline review since taking charge in December, said that the firm will aim to increase the percentage of biotech products in its pipeline from 14 to 25 per cent over the next three years.

Mega mergers back on Sanofi’s agenda?

Viebacher also restated the Sanofi’s acquisition policy, telling Bloomberg​ that “We are looking at everything, all sizes of transactions. The filter is not the size. The filter is where we see growth opportunities.”

This contrasts with comments Viebacher made in February when he eschewed mega-merger strategies like Pfizer’s acquisition of Wyeth in favour of purchases in the $5-$15bn range.

Indeed, despite the fact that Sanofi’s purchases this year, which include Kendrick, Medley and BiPar, have all been within or below this limit some observers have speculated that the firm is on the look out for bigger acquisitions.

A report by Urch Publishing released earlier this week argued Sanofi is one of the best placed Big Pharma’s for a mega deal and suggested Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) and Bayer as potential targets.

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