Sanofi: deals like Lead Pharma accord not a replacement for in-house R&D

By Gareth Macdonald

- Last updated on GMT

Sanofi says it could launch 18 new drugs by 2020 and generate an extra €30bn by 2025
Sanofi says it could launch 18 new drugs by 2020 and generate an extra €30bn by 2025

Related tags Immune system Pharmaceutical industry Sanofi

Sanofi has partnered with Dutch biotechnology spin-out Lead Pharma to discover autoimmune drugs that target ROR gamma t hormone receptors.

The deal will see Lead lead discovery efforts in return for cash up front and milestone payments with Sanofi taking charge of clinical development and commercialisation. The firms aim to begin clinical trials in 2018 or 2019.

ROR gamma t receptors are involved in the regulation of immune responses, including those involved in auto immune disorders. Sanofi and Lead aim to moderate these processes using small molecule therapeutic agents.

The agreement comes as Sanofi tries to refill its pipeline and refocus its R&D initiatives launched under CEO Chris Viebacher’s troubled tenure.

This refocusing process continued this month with Sanofi confirming that it plans to cut 100 jobs​ at a cancer R&D center in Boston and merge the remaining operations with its Genzyme division.


In parallel, Sanofi has been forming discovery R&D partnership with external firms.

In March last year it teamed up with UCB on another inflammation-focused discovery project​. More recently, its Genzyme division partnered with Voyager Therapuetics​.

But deals like these or the Lead Pharma agreement “do not replace in-house R&D,”​ according to Sanofi spokeswoman Flore Larger, who pointed to the firm’s R&D plan and busy programme of planned product launches.

She said the drugmaker “has successfully transformed its R&D organization into Sanofi’s core engine of growth​” adding that “Sanofi R&D changed the paradigm from a focus on quantity to a focus on quality of projects with rigorously managed milestones and greater resources for each promising project​.”

Larger cited Sanofi’s planned product launches in 2015 – the diabetes drug Toujeo, the combination vaccine PR5i, a dengue fever vaccine, the Gaucher’s disease therapy Cerdelga and the cholesterol drug Praluent that it co-developed with Regeneron – as evidence.

She also said that over the 2016 to 2018 period Sanofi plans one launch every six months, adding that: “Through 2020, [the firm plans] 18 potential launches with potential to generate €30bn within the first five years of sales.”

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